Monday, March 29, 2010

"Epistemal Arrogance"

Earthsharing Austrailia shares some of the sentiments of a student who is beginning a Finance/Economics program. He compares the worldview of a typical marketing course:

‘We don’t know what is going on in an individuals mind, or what makes them happy. We call it a “consumers black box”, that’s what we are trying to find out.’

With the far more conclusive theoretical framework in economics:

‘We assume people are rational utility maximisers (‘utility’ means happiness) and utility is a function of consumption, and consumption is a function of wealth. So the higher the GDP, the better... okay onto the science!’

I might propose something like the following for psychology (at least as it relates to these prior definitions): "We're beginning to discover what makes people happy, but it seems as though individuals aren't very good at predicting what that is for themselves. It seems that people are actually more alike in what makes them happy than our individualized culture tends to emphasize." I'd also argue that such a theoretical framework should be integrated with economic study to determine what policies maximize actual well-being rather than GDP-represented well-being.

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