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Title: Exploring the Economic Unconscious: An Interdisciplinary Approach


Editors: Liviu Poenaru (1) and Murielle El Hajj (2)


1) Doctor in psychopathology and clinical psychology, psychotherapist (Geneva), cofounder/codirector of In Analysis journal (Elsevier Masson, Paris)

2) Assistant Professor and Director of Lusail University Press (LU Press), Lusail University, Qatar


The proposed edited book is groundbreaking, presenting the first comprehensive study and an original exploration of the economic unconscious. The latter refers to the complex interaction between the mind and socio-economic decision-making processes. This concept, which is paradoxically overlooked in scientific domains, immerses us in the hidden angles of memory, emotions, and conditionings, exploring the nuances with which these elements influence, not only our economic choices, but also our relationships with social, financial, and aesthetic capital. The aim of this book is also to emphasize how the concept of “economic unconscious” is situated at the convergence of various disciplines, such as consumer neuroscience, behavioral economics, cognitive sociology, psychology (cultural, social, etc.), philosophy, and epidemiology of modern world. Thus, it may offer a vivid picture of how societal structures, both explicit and implicit, shaping not only economic behaviors, but also personalities. Moreover, the work examines the collective psyche (the interplay between symbols, languages, cultures, and collective experiences), exploring the various influences from a critical perspective as well. Furthermore, it highlights how the economic unconscious is closely linked to the persistent influence of propaganda in the contemporary context. These influences determined by economic and political factors extend beyond individual choices to shape collective perceptions, affecting cultural norms, organizational dynamics, and history.


Keywords: Economic Unconscious, Economic Cognitions, Behavioral Economics, Consumer Neurosciences, Cognitive sociology, Psychology, Psychoanalysis, Epidemiology, Critical Studies.


Rationale for Collaboration: 

  • Interdisciplinary Dialogue: The economic unconscious cannot be fully understood through a single lens. By bringing together experts from diverse fields, this edited book aims to foster a rich interdisciplinary contemporary dialogue. 

  • Holistic Understanding: Each discipline brings a unique set of methodologies. Integrating neuroscientific findings with sociological and psychological observations, economic behavioral patterns, and philosophical insights provides a more holistic understanding of the economic unconscious. 

  • Practical Applications: The intersection of diverse perspectives leads to the development of innovative frameworks and practical applications. Understanding how unconscious factors shape subjectivities, societies, and economic behavior holds immense potential for informing policymaking and therapeutic interventions aimed at addressing the contemporary issues posed by new economic contexts and codes.


The purpose of this collective book is to bridge gaps between disciplines and to offer a comprehensive exploration of the economic unconscious. Contributions range from theoretical frameworks to empirical studies, fostering interdisciplinary dialogue focused on the notion of the “unconscious” as it can be approached by various disciplines. We welcome contributions from various disciplines to cover the below themes:


  • Neurosciences and Consumer Neuroscience: Expertise in neurosciences is instrumental in unraveling multiple non-conscious processes which highlight the neural pathways and correlates of memory, learning, attention, emotions, and conditionings in the economic decision-making processes. This approach spans multiple subfields, including cognitive neuroscience, affective neuroscience, and neuropsychology. By integrating insights from neuroscience with theories and research from psychology, philosophy, and other disciplines, scientists may deepen our understanding of the complex relationship between brain function and unconscious experience.

  • Cognitive Sociology and Social Psychology: In a world largely determined by social networks as vectors of economic codes, cognitive sociology and social psychology are a crucial component in this multidisciplinary exploration as long as they investigate the links between non-conscious processes, automaticity, social cognition, schema theory, implicit bias, stereotype activation, non-verbal communication, emotion, social identity, self-concept, automatic processing of social information, unconscious priming, behavioral activation, etc.

  • Behavioral Economics: Behavioral economists will shed light on the relationship between unconscious processes (intuitive, automatic, short) and biased economic decisions. This field acknowledges that individuals often deviate from the rational models assumed in traditional economics due to cognitive biases, emotions, and social influences. Their insights will contribute to a practical understanding of how unconscious processes play a significant role in shaping behaviors and cognitions, if several key articulations between behavioral economics and these processes can be identified: dual-system models, heuristics, biases, emotional influences, social influences, norms, temporal discounting, nudge theory, habit formation, neuroeconomics, etc.

  • Cultural Psychology: This perspective will explore the influence of cultural contexts on economic behaviors, cognitions (perception, emotions, and interpretation of the world) and development. Cultural narratives may articulate with economic unconscious at multiple levels: cultural schemas, implicit knowledge, implicit cultural values and norms, cultural priming, activation, cultural metaphors and symbols, cultural scripts, social roles, cultural emotions, affective experiences, cultural worldviews, implicit theories, etc. This perspective will highlight the complex relationship between culture, cognition, and unconscious mental processes in shaping child development, human experience, social life, and economic backgrounds.

  • Scholars in psychoanalysis will complement our perspective by providing a nuanced understanding of the unconscious motivations and drives behind economic choices. How do drives, societal structures, and historical conditions influence early child development and economic decision-making? Is the development of the child and its unconscious essentially determined by oedipal configurations, or rather by economic contexts that condition the appearance of class, race, and gender neuroses according to principles of social inclusion and exclusion? 

  • Highlighting how the economic unconscious is closely linked to the persistent influence of propaganda in the contemporary context will add value to our interdisciplinary exploration. The dissemination of multiple narratives (in the media, cultural, political, or commercial audio-visual productions, etc.), with increasingly subtle, sophisticated strategies controlled by artificial intelligence, significantly impacts decision-making processes. Propaganda techniques often exploit non-conscious processes to influence economic behavior, shape consumer choices, and sway public opinion regarding economic issues. Understanding the intersection between propaganda, economic behavior, and unconscious requires examining how persuasive messaging can create cognitive biases, emotional responses, social dynamics, and cultural narratives to impact individuals’ economic desires and actions.

  • Philosophical perspectives on the economic unconscious will add depth to our exploration. How can philosophical frameworks enrich our understanding of the ethical (autonomy, self-determination, privacy) and existential dimensions of economic choices? While the economic unconscious offers insights into the complexities of human behavior and cognitions, it also raises several ethical issues: inequality, vulnerability, privacy, data ethics, transparency, disclosure, ethical consumerism, corporate responsibility, fairness, distributive justice, professional ethics, fiduciary duties, etc.

  • Pathologies and Epidemiology of Capitalism: Contributions from the study of pathologies and epidemiology of the 21st century are crucial to address the impact of societal and political structures on mental health. How do economic systems and decisions contribute to pathologies, and what are the epidemiological evolutions and implications of capitalism on mental well-being? Several factors may impact mental well-being and contribute to pathologies: pressure to curate an ideal life, income inequality and social stratification, job insecurity and precarious employment, constant injection of consumer codes and materialism, workplace stress and burnout, economic insecurity and financial distress, social isolation and alienation, environmental degradation, and eco-anxiety, etc. Frances Haugen, Facebook’s whistleblower, informs us that in 2021 the company (Meta, which also owns Instagram) was aware that the use of its apps was leading to an increase in suicide among young girls: “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls”. How can these findings be applied to the current socio-economic regime and its pathological effects?


Sections and Chapters Outline


This edited book is structured into nine (9) sections and a total of 19 chapters, all centered around the theme of the economic unconscious. Thus, it is crucial to provide a comprehensive definition of the economic unconscious. The latter is a multidisciplinary and multilayered concept (metaphysical, tangible, and provisional, necessarily altered by the evolution of research).

The economic unconscious comprises a complex array of operations, mechanisms, processes, and dynamics spanning psychic, somatic, political, social, economic, scientific and cultural domains. These aspects evade individual and collective consciousness while manifesting within the neuro-cognitive-behavioral and ecosystemic complex. Positioned at the convergence of individual and group unconsciousness, the economic unconscious results from diverse cognitive, behavioral, and defensive maneuvers undertaken privately, collectively, and environmentally. These maneuvers, though seemingly conscious and voluntary, are primarily driven by latent contents and mechanisms, as emphasized by neurosciences, cognitive sciences and psychoanalysis. In neuroscience, for example, one key approach is to examine patterns of brain activity associated with unconscious processes. Studies have identified neural correlates of unconscious perception, decision-making, and emotional processing. Research on neural networks and connectivity sheds light on how information is processed and integrated in the brain, even when individuals are not consciously aware of it. Additionally, advances in understanding neurotransmitter systems and neuromodulation provide insights into the biological underpinnings of unconscious mental states and behaviors.

Viewed through this perspective, the economic unconscious emerges as an interactive, functional, systemic, and co-constructed universe at both microscopic and macroscopic levels. Governed by processual laws influenced by human nature and adaptability, it operates within an environment increasingly shaped by economic laws, as demonstrated by market-oriented sciences using statistical predictions and profit-seeking strategies.

In a transdisciplinary and multilayered context, the economic unconscious intersects with individual, collective, psychoanalytic, and cognitive mechanisms and dynamics, highlighting the adaptive and nonconscious nature of most economic behaviors. The economic unconscious lacks clear boundaries, as its constituent elements maintain dynamic and conflictual relationships. Thus, a transdisciplinary, dialectical, and critical approach is proposed for the subjective reconstruction and exploration of the economic unconscious’s contents and latent conflicts, emphasizing relevance and non-dogmatism.





Chapter 1: Consumer Neuroscience & Neuroeconomics

  • Understanding the neural mechanisms underlying consumer responses to marketing stimuli, brands, products, and advertising messages.

  • Methods used to investigate how the brain processes information related to consumer choices and experiences.

  • Questioning the way neuroeconomics seeks to integrate insights from neuroscience, psychology, and economics.


Chapter 2: Emotions and Economic Conditioning

  • Examination of the interdisciplinary dialogue facilitated by expertise in neurosciences to provide valuable insights into how the brain processes emotional stimuli, influences decision-making, and shapes economic behaviors.

  • The relationship between psychological factors, market dynamics, institutional frameworks, and socio-cultural contexts that shape economic decision-making and outcomes at individual, organizational, and societal levels.


Chapter 3: Ethics

  • Addressing the ethical issues raised by consumer neuroscience and marketing (including neuro- and nanomarketing).

  • Which guidelines can be elaborated to define the best practices that promote responsible and ethical use of consumer neuroscience and neuromarketing techniques while safeguarding individual autonomy and well-being?




Chapter 4: Cognitive Biases and Heuristics in Economic Decisions

  • Questioning how individuals perceive information, process data, and make choices.

  • How individuals’ cognitive biases—systematic deviations from rationality—and heuristics—mental shortcuts or rules of thumb—affect their decision-making processes in economic contexts?

  • How do "nudges" draw on behavioral science insights to help individuals make better choices, often by altering the way options are presented or structuring decision environments to favor desired outcomes?


Chapter 5: Behavioral Economics in Practice

  • Practical understanding of how behavioral economics principles manifest in real-world scenarios and how individuals make choices in uncertain and complex environments.

  • In-depth exploration of practical applications across various domains, including healthcare, education, environmental conservation, and public policy.

  • Designing interventions and solutions that address real-world challenges and promote positive outcomes.




Chapter 6: Cognitive sociology

  • Understanding how individuals’ nonconscious mental processes influence and are influenced by social structures, norms, and interactions.

  • How social context shapes cognitive processes such as perception, attention, memory, and decision-making?

  • How can social cognition, collective memory, identity, language, discourses, social networks, information flow, embodiment and situated cognition, and normative influences elucidate the complex relationship between cognitive psychology and sociology?


Chapter 7: Social Neuroeconomics

  • Studying the articulation between principles from neuroscience, economics, and social psychology to investigate the neural underpinnings of social decision-making and behavior in economic contexts.

  • Examining theories related to the neural correlates of social behavior, social preferences, altruism, social influence, conformity, group decision-making, collective behavior, cultural and cross-cultural differences, and applications to policy and intervention.


Chapter 8: Social media and cognitive sociology

  • How individuals perceive, interpret, and make sense of social phenomena, including the influence of technology and media on cognition and social interactions?

  • Which insights can cognitive sociology offer into phenomena such as information processing, social comparison, identity formation, relationships, attention economy, distraction, echo chambers, polarization, digital literacy, and critical thinking?




Chapter 8: Influence of Cultural Contexts on Economic Behaviors

  • Exploration of how cultural narratives articulate with economic unconscious processes like perception of work, wealth, risk, authority, consumption, etc.

  • Examination of variations in economic cognitions and attitudes within different cultural contexts.


Chapter 9: Cultural Psychology and Child Development

  • Examination of how cultural contexts shape child development in terms of socialization, language acquisition, social learning, imitation, emotional regulation, identity formation, parenting beliefs and practice, etc.

  • Appreciation of the diverse pathways through which cultural contexts shape early childhood experiences, socialization processes, and developmental outcomes across different cultural communities.




Chapter 10: Neuroscience of vision

  • What are the neuronal mechanisms of the visual system and how does it function?

  • What role does vision play in perception, attention, emotional responses, cognitive biases, heuristics, brand identity, visual symbolism, visual framing, priming, environmental context, etc.?


Chapter 11: Visual studies

  • Examining the production, reception, and interpretation of visual culture across various media and contexts.

  • How visual studies can inform the formation of the economic unconscious by shedding light on the ways in which visual culture shapes individuals’ perceptions, preferences, and decision-making processes in economic contexts?





Chapter 12: Unconscious Motivations in Economic

  • Nuances understanding of the fundamental drives at play in economic choices from the perspectives of psychoanalysis.

  • How the main psychic instances (the Id, the Ego, the Superego) of the psychic apparatus and its defense mechanisms are built and modulated by economic codes?

  • Can the perspectives of schizoanalysis (Deleuze & Guattari) and Freudo-Marxism offer us alternative and dialectical views on the economic unconscious to enhance rigor and scientific validation, and to promote critical thinking?


Chapter 13: Early Child Development and Economic Choices

  • Analysis of how societal, economic, political structures and historical conditions impact early child development and permanently shape the psychic apparatus.

  • Is the Oedipus complex still relevant in the face of numerous economic and cultural factors that influence child development?




Chapter 14: Economic Unconscious and Contemporary Propaganda

  • Underscoring the complex relationship between psychological, economic, and socio-political forces in forming individuals’ beliefs, behaviors, and societal norms.

  • Understanding different concepts involved in modern propaganda such as: persuasion techniques, advertising culture, psychological manipulation, surveillance, data mining, etc.


Chapter 15: Beyond Individual Choices – Propaganda’s Collective Impact

  • Showing how propaganda exerts a significant collective impact on societies and cultures through various mechanisms and outcomes (manufacturing consent, social polarization and division, cultural hegemony, normalization of authoritarianism, social engineering, resistance to counter-narratives, etc.).

  • How to foster democratic values, social cohesion, and cultural diversity in an increasingly interconnected and mediated world?




Chapter 16: Philosophical Perspectives on the Economic Unconscious

  • Exploring the deeper layers of human consciousness, desires, motivations and values that underpin economic phenomena.

  • Question the way in which various philosophical perspectives (Marxism, existential philosophy, critical theories, feminism, political philosophy, etc.) perceive the economic unconscious.


Chapter 17: Autonomy, Self-determination, and Privacy in Economic Choices

  • Exploration of the future of autonomy, self-determination and privacy in a world that presents itself as regulated by freedom of expression.

  • Analysis of the ethical dimensions of consumerism.




Chapter 18: Economic Systems and Mental Health Pathologies

  • Questioning how economic systems can influence mental health outcomes through various mechanisms, impacting individuals, families, and communities.

  • Analysis of epidemiological evolutions and implications of modern economies on mental well-being.


Chapter 19: Treating economic pathologies

  • Examination of the ways mental health practitioners can address economic pathologies: psychoeducation, therapeutic support, exploring values and meaning, community building, mutual aid, critical reflection, social justice, etc.

  • Considering how to deal with pathogenic economic systems: advocacy, activism, regulatory reforms, policy change, solidarity, democratic participation, long-term vision, etc.




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