Institutional economics and psychoanalysis: how can they collaborate for a better understanding of individual-society dynamics? Arturo hermann* may 2005


APPENDIX: THE INDIVIDUAL’S DECISION-MAKING PROCESS: PRELIMINARY REMARKS



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APPENDIX: THE INDIVIDUAL’S DECISION-MAKING PROCESS: PRELIMINARY REMARKS
Introduction
Needless to say, this issue is a very tangled one and even a superficial analysis of it would require many pages. Being aware of this difficulty, we will make a number of preliminary remarks by utilizing the concepts analyzed before.

A central aspect we wish to stress is the unitary character of the human mind. This implies that even if the mind can perform many different activities (e.g., cognitive, affective), they all represent only a part of the same system.

Another important element we would like to outline is the role played by psychological conflicts in the individual’s decision-making process. In fact, as observed before, psychological conflicts tend to be considered as a central attribute not only of any neurosis but also of the neurotic-free mind51.

This is due largely to the fact that the cognitive, time, space and energy resources of the person are limited and thus can never achieve his or her goals completely. These constraints can be considered as intrinsic scarcity factors for which even economic progress cannot compensate.

When asked about his or her goals, virtually everyone would complain about not having enough inner attributes, energy and time to pursue all of them. This situation can easily trigger structural conflicts.

By the expression “structural conflicts”, we mean that the choice between different alternatives involves not only the necessity to renounce some of them but also the presence of conflicts related to the emotional sphere.

This concept implies that, for instance, the choice between different consumption alternatives, and between consumption and saving is not only a “matter of tastes” but in many cases implies the choice between different values and reflects different ways of dealing with emotions and conflicts.

As already seen, such factors heavily influence the decision-making process and, we can assume, the greater the effects of emotions on the individual’s decision-making process the greater the tendency for psychological conflicts to arise.

The emotional sphere is partly unconscious and may be affected by neurotic conflicts.

The most obvious way this could happen is when the individual is overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety, anger, sorrow and so on52. Supposing that such a situation is not due to severe external shocks, the decision-making process can be affected, though not because such emotions are “excessive”, but rather because the conflicts related to them are difficult to manage.

Neurotic conflicts can affect the “rationality” of the individual’s decision-making process in two interrelated ways:
i) By conditioning the priority the individual gives to the range of available choices.
ii) By affecting the internal coherence of a sub-set of decisions deriving from a previous choice; there is thus a conflict between two contrasting emotions both belonging to the emotional sphere.
In these cases, the choices made by a person may cause him or her feelings of stress, guilt, dissatisfaction and so on.

Such feelings arise because some aspects of the individual are contrary to the choices made. The stress caused by these conflicts may result in a largely unconscious behaviour tending to reverse the initial choice. In such a situation, the correct choice of means could also be affected and thus, an incorrect choice of means might depend (at least in part) on the underlying conflicts of the individual.






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