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First Published Friday, 3 April 2009

Article Date: 03 Apr 2009

The past 18 months have seen a spectacular reversal of economic fortunes in much of the developed world, particularly in the UK.

Current research into the psychological impact of the recession and how psychology could help revive the economy presented yesterday at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Brighton.

Peter Cooper, chief executive of CRAM International, and Professor Stephen Lea of the University of Exeter will present their findings to date and introduce ongoing work. They will also suggest ways for psychology to help shape future policies and thinking to help get the economy out of recession.

Professor Lea will talk about the psychology of money. He says: “Money is a strong motivating force in society. Yet unlike other strong motivators such as food or sex, it has no apparent or direct biological basis. It can be seen not only as a useful tool for society, but also as a powerful drug. “Modern money is, in a sense, a mutual confidence trick. Money and financial instruments like stocks and shares only work because everyone believes that they will work.

“Confidence in the supposed instrumental support for some kinds of money, or money-related tools, has collapsed resulting in substantial disorder in behaviour. On the other hand, many people have suddenly been put in a situation where they are either in debt or are almost bound to go into debt.

“We need to consider whether there has been a mass psychology of both money and debt that has contributed to the credit crunch”.

Peter Cooper, who is also a Fellow of the Market Research Society, is currently researching how the economic crisis impacts on our mental health and well-being.

Mr Cooper said: “For many people the recession is creating profound fears about loss of home, love, self-respect, and above all loss of meaning in their lives.”

“Anxiety and depression are increasingly evident. Many blame the ‘greed’ of the past. Others see it as an opportunity for ‘cleansing’ and a ‘new beginning’. However, many people lack the psychological resources to cope.

“Psychological factors have played a part in the origins of the crisis, and are now critical in its resolution for individual and social well-being. Understanding psychological needs and working in partnership with organisations in fields like economics, ecology and politics can help forge the new world people are seeking.”

The British Psychological Society Annual Conference takes at the Holiday Inn on Brighton Seafront from 1 – 3 April 2009.

British Psychological Society

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