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A Dual-Process Model of Economic Behavior: Using Culture and Cognition, Economic Sociology, Behavioral Economics, and Neuroscience to Reconcile Moral and Self-Interested Economic Action

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Synthesizing theory and findings from across neoclassical economics, behavioral economics, economic sociology, culture and cognition, and neuroscience, I create a dual-process model of economic behavior that explains both self-interested and moral decision-making. The core of this model is from neuroscience (Crockett 2013; Cushman 2013; Greene 2017; Lockwood et al. 2020). In my model, Type I and Type II processes exist relative to socially learned outcomes and causal models for achieving these outcomes. For Type I cognition, nondeclarative strategies for how to achieve an outcome are learned through life experience and automatically generate “gut feelings” about how to accomplish a given outcome. Type II cognition is deliberation based on declarative memory of the process through which one must act to obtain an outcome. Type II cognition also deliberates between Type I and Type II inputs for how to reach an outcome. This model allows for goals, and strategies to achieve goals, to be learned socially—therefore allowing for actors to learn moral and/or self-interested economic goals and strategies through social interaction. This model can be used across economic sociology, cultural sociology, and the sociology of morality because it advances current models of self-interested decision-making and moral judgment. Furthermore, this article is a bridge between behavioral economics and sociology, as well as between cultural sociology and economic sociology that can help foster collaboration by providing a common model of behavior.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSociological Forum
Pages (from-to)1271-1296
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

    Research areas

  • cognition, culture, decision-making, economics, morality, Type 1/Type 2 cognition

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