Insights from cognitive science can help elucidate the processes of major economic and institutional change. Rather than relying on a single, rational agent model to explain new behaviors and institutions, the research findings in this chapter argue for the need for a socially constructed conception of cognition. Building upon recent literature from developmental psychology, cognitive institutionalism, and cognitive sociology, this chapter outlines a social cognition model of how social and power dynamics alter the cognitive processes of agents such as entrepreneurs in times of system-wide changes. Important factors include processes of attention, vicarious learning, and social structure. It also observes that while social, cognitive processes are key to major institutional change, this change is largely absent from international development discourse. This omission is conducive to propagating myths about universal, natural development strategies and helps to explains why economic changes happen so quickly in some places and not others.
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