This paper theorises that a person's mindset is a commonplace trait that has an impact in economic systems. A mindset contrasts with other theoretics which use choice and information sets to limit the economic actor's decision-making by focusing on the description of a person's knowledge rather than on available options. The persistent way a person thinks about the world influences their treatment of information and further development of knowledge. The mindset concept accommodates the complexity of individuals and their idiosyncrasies, whereas a standard economic approach simplifies these characteristics. In this paper, Lamberton's discussion of mindsets is extended from information sharing, cultural embeddedness and lock-in to the necessity of a mindset held by each person, change in a person's knowledge and the impact on groups of people. Instead of being a statement about the limited capacity of a person to think, a mindset is a consequence of history and the build-up of knowledge through disjointed experiences. It is argued that a mindset does not necessarily restrict a person to set economic activity, but instead preserves wider economic structures. Through some examples of mindsets, such as the entrepreneurial mindset, this discussion moves away from the acquire-then-use understanding of how people use information towards an economic person with a mind sense constructed through situated learning.
The Vygotskian concepts of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and of ontogenesis show how people are influenced when learning through their previous knowledge and their current cultural situatedness (see Cole, 1996).
The author is indebted to Geoffrey Jones for this insight.