A Functional Contextualist Account of Behavioral Economics: Relational Frame Theory Applied to Decision-Making and Choice Behavior
Behavioral economics is a discipline that is mainly rooted in cognitivism and that is concerned with the study of decision-making processes and choice behavior. These involve addressing the relations between cognition and overt behavior, which comprise one of the most challenging topics in the domain of behavioral sciences at large and have been approached by different epistemological viewpoints. Within the cognitivist tradition, private events have been often treated as causes of behaviors, adopting a mechanistic view. Conversely, a contextual functional behavioral perspective treats them with the same methodology that is adopted for overt behaviors. Relational frame theory, a post-Skinnerian theory of language and cognition, offers a behavioral perspective on cognition and overt behavior and how they influence human behavior, by keeping a high degree of coherence with basic principles and goals of behavior analysis (i.e., effective action). This conceptual paper represents an attempt to offer a perspective drawn from contextual behavioral science on some constructs described in behavioral economics. Furthermore, it provides a common ground for behavior analysts and researchers in other fields of psychology to further expand our knowledge and respective explanations of decision-making processes. Finally, it draws a line for connecting basic research to applied solutions.