Is the Psychology of High Profits Detrimental to Industrial Renewal? Experimental Evidence for the Theory of Transformation Pressure

Reprint No. 2015:28

Author(s): Lennart Erixon and Louise JohannessonYear: 2015 Title: Journal of Evolutionary Economics Volume (No.): 25 (2) Pages: 471–511
Online article (restrictions may apply)

The theory of transformation pressure maintains, by reference to cognitive and emotional factors, that productivity and innovation are stimulated by a decline in actual profits. In periods of increasing profits, firms governed by historical relativism, the peak-end rule and overconfidence will opt for the status quo. In the following profit recession, actors become more alert, calculating and creative, favoring a transformation, especially if they fear that the survival of the firm is at stake. The theory of transformation pressure was tested by a within-subjects experiment where undergraduate students in macroeconomics acted as managers for an established company. The role play sheds light on the students’ investment strategy choices and underlying psychological perceptions under varying profit conditions. The theory was only partly confirmed by the experiment. There are arguments in industrial economics, psychology and neuroscience for a qualified theory of transformation pressure. Productivity is enhanced by moderate pressure or by periodic shifts between hard pressure and good opportunity.

Erixon, Lennart and Louise Johannesson (2015), "Is the Psychology of High Profits Detrimental to Industrial Renewal? Experimental Evidence for the Theory of Transformation Pressure". Journal of Evolutionary Economics 25(2), 471–511.

Louise Johannesson


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