Institutions, distributed cognition and agency: rule-following as performative action

Journal of Economic Methodology 19 (1):21-42 (2012)

Abstract

Aoki recently proposed the concept of substantive institutions, a concept that relates the outcomes of strategic interaction with public representations of the equilibrium states of games. I argue that the Aoki model can be grounded in theories of distributed cognition and performativity, which I put into the context of Searle's philosophical account of institutions. Substantive institutions build on regularized causal interactions between internal neuronal mechanisms and external facts, shared in a population of agents. Following Searle's proposal of conceiving rule-following as a neuronally anchored behavioral disposition, I show that his corresponding notion of collective intentionality can be grounded in recent neuroscience theories of imitation as the primordial process in human learning. I relate this to Searle's concept of status function and the neuronal theory of metaphors. This results in a precise definition of rule-following as performative action. I present two empirical examples of this: (1) the institution of money, and (2) status hierarchies in markets

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