Behavioral finance FAQ / Glossary (Economic man)

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Dates of related message(s) in the
Behavioral-Finance group (*):
Year/month, d: developed / discussed,
i: incidental

images/images/pi-arrig.gif Economic man

01/1d - 08/4i
+ see rational choice

The money-wise, super-smart, hyper-cool superhero!
that we are all supposed to be?

But is he always at work?

The economic man or "homo oeconomicus" is an allegory that
pictures the typical human being, in his economic behavior, as

A rational and knowledgeable person who makes his
by doing correct analyses and maximizing his

Or at least somebody whose actions have the best chance
to reach his economic goals.

The "rational choice" theory states that people in general,
in their economic behavior, match
that economic man

Some classical economists made this assumption that:

Most of us, fellow Earthlings, behave as perfect
    economic men / women

This brings market efficiency which results in the best

    allocation of resources, as if our behaviors were

    guided by a superior, wise and benevolent "invisible hand"
     (Adam Smith dixit).

More precisely, how the economic man
     is supposed to behave

Smart and getting the best from the cake.

Such rational economic persons are supposed to combine two traits:

They are perfectly informed and make correct
   analyses of:

the economic situations and prospects,

the behaviors of the other economic players.

Their decisions and actions always maximize the
satisfaction of their economic interests / goals.

As an effect of those two traits, those bionic (*) people are
supposed, when they decide an action (or inaction), not to
let cognitive deficiencies or emotional biases override their
rationality / efficiency.

(*) Will transhumanism and artificial intellgence
the concept ?

The economic goal puzzle

If we expand the concept a little, and step a bit outside the economic
world (the boundary between economy and life in general is fuzzy),
our rational decisions and moves are those supposed to fit strictly 

our hierarchy of "preferences".

But that is still not enough to obtain perfect rationality, as confusions
can also be made about:

What is behind economic preferences, intentions and

goals (see those words)

Therefore, how rational they are.

Even money seeking above a certain level is not fully a criteria of
rational goal. Other motives might hide behind it such as

"status seeking", "trophy seeking" or even "power seeking"*.

Its effects can be damaging for the person itself as well
as for others.

Does this guy exist?
     Can his behavior be modeled?

A rational ...myth?

Research in behavioral economics (see that phrase) has shown that

The "economic man" assumptions do not fully
economic decisions in real life.

Various market anomalies (see anomaly)
    show that rationality in most human behaviors is partly
   a myth

To assume mechanically perfect rationality in economic / financial
(see model)
is highly hazardous.

Such assumptions can only be used carefully, and only as
in such models. At least, they need to be completed by
adaptable and flexible parameters
to get close to reality.

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This page last update: 27/08/15   

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