Veblen took the view that humans were driven by habit. Habits are guided by both inherited propensities – called instincts – and existing institutions. A habit is a learned capacity to act or think in a particular way. Instead of beliefs being prime movers, they too are based on habits.
As the pragmatist philosopher John Dewey argued eloquently in his 1922 book Human Nature and Conduct, deliberate choices occur when our habitual propensities clash and we are forced to make a decision between them. Generally, habit drives reason and choice, rather than the other way round.
This way of putting instinct first, habit second, and reason third is consistent with our understanding of human evolution. The instinct-habit-reason ordering is consistent with the sequence in which these emerged long ago in the evolution of our species. It is also consistent with the way in which they develop in each human individual, from infanthood to adulthood.
This evolutionary perspective on human agency is very different from the mind-first, or beliefs-first, perspectives that still dominate economics and much of social science.…As George Lakoff frequently points out, mind-first is so 18th century.
Imagine Economics as an Evolutionary Science
Geoffrey M. Hodgson is research professor at Hertfordshire Business School, University of Hertfordshire, England