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Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Market Cognition: How Exchange Norms Alter Social Experience

Zaki, J., Neumann, E., & Baltiansky, D. (2021).
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 
30(3), 236–241.


Market exchange and the ideologies that accompany it pervade human social interaction. How does this affect people’s beliefs about themselves, each other, and human nature? Here we describe market cognition as social inferences and behaviors that are intensified by market contexts. We focus on prosociality and two countervailing ways in which market cognition can affect it. On the one hand, marketplaces incentivize individuals to behave prosocially in order to be chosen as exchange partners—thereby generalizing cooperation and trust beyond group boundaries. On the other hand, markets encourage a view of people as self-interested and can thus taint people’s interpretation of prosocial actions and erode more communal forms of cooperation. We close by considering how market cognition can become self-fulfilling, altering relationships, communities, and cultural norms.

Background: Market exchange is a ubiquitous feature of modern life, and it has been argued that this can have a profound impact on our social cognition.

Research question: The authors of this article investigated how market norms and beliefs can alter our social inferences and behaviors.

Conclusions: The authors concluded that market cognition can have a self-fulfilling prophecy effect. When we believe that others are self-interested, we are more likely to act selfishly ourselves. This can then lead others to believe that we are self-interested, and so on.