Toward a macropsychology

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Index of Consumer Sentiment data on reported attitudes and expectations were compared with economic statistics compiled by government agencies and the National Bureau of Economic Research about the beginning and end of recessions between 1952 and 1978. Regularities of economic attitudes and behavior are demonstrated on the aggregative (i.e., macro) level, whereas individual attitudes and behavior are shown to fluctuate to a much greater extent and to be subject to considerable noise. Using analyses of (a) uncertainty and (b) of the learning process by masses of people, this article shows that a study of macroprocesses may usefully supplement the usual microanalysis. Forecasting is much more successful on the macro than on the micro level. Both short-term and middle-range predictions of American economic trends are made possible by collecting data on the attitudes and expectations of representative samples, primarily on the extent of their optimism and confidence or pessimism and uncertainty. A strong positive relation between attitudes and behavior is indicated at the macro but not micro level. (19 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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