modernghana logo

FEATURED STORY Tithe Paying Is Certainly A Sin...

18 September 2011 | Feature Article

Shipman Theory or Economic Theory of the Need-At-The-Moment

1. Preamble
Momentary or quick decision making involving money is common in trade as well as in the everyday world of the consumer and the buyer. It functions tremendously well in domestic trade private market, international market, and stock market. Consumers as well as buyers usually deal with momentary decision making involving money, which could affect not only their consumption behaviour, but also their whole live existence as human beings on earth. When such decisions take place in the private as well as in the international level, the risk becomes so high that the incomparability will be seen as possessing high probability that will be (p = 1). Momentary decision involving money requires skill, intelligent minds, sacrifices, sentimental, and cognition such that one could sometime turn around and question the mental stability of those clients, consumers, or buyers, who became involved and made successful decisions that became accepted as worthy to be emulated. Many individuals face these decisions constantly in their private lives; they entail higher risk, intelligent rationalisation, superb decision making ability, ultimate desire to be above the problem or predicament in the world filled with uncertainty and chaos.

2. Prediction
Shipman Theory or The Economic Theory of Need-At-The-Moment predicts that when an individual faces dangerous/threatening situations in real life, which concern his whole life existence that also have affinity with economic matters/consequences, the focus of the predicament usually automatically shifts from this individual to encompass other individuals that mean much to this former individual or those that the former individual has sentimental affections with.

3. Shipman Theory—the Skeleton
In social interaction world where people meet everyday, we often become aware that circumstances that people find themselves in could determine or influence the manner they will behave at a particular point in time. A kind man or a God fearing man who is a devout Christian when faced with the possibility of saving his life from armed robbers could behave in a manner that will make him become a murderer in the end. And so it is in the world of business, where another respected businessman who is faced with bankruptcy in his superb thriving company, which is headed by his only dear son, could end up sacking him instead of maintaining him in this top position. All said and done, in social psychological investigations it has been revealed that, our good motives fail to sustain or exonerate us from certain circumstances, which make us feel threatened or put us in danger. We make momentary/quick decisions concerning these things that require our skill in handling unforeseen circumstances. It is these same circumstances that sometimes prevent individuals to spend their immediate resources to deal with those considered as magnitude needs and instead become concerned with priority needs at the moment. It could be a person's own goods from the harbour which he would neglect for the simple reason that certain circumstances beyond his control influenced him to do that. When this kind of situation is the case for many businessmen, as well as private individuals, the extent of their resources would not be capable of aiding them to deal with those important claims that confront them at a particular point in time.

Our meticulous analysis resulting from our social psychological interaction study in the Ghanaian port furnishes us with certain useful knowledge, which makes us to propose that the crucial need at the moment influences clients as well as businessmen for making momentary decisions that could resemble the opportunity cost model usually discussed in economics or financial world. But the difference is that, in the case of the need-at-the-moment, these decisions may be unfavourable such that, they become like the gamble type of decision, which put those individuals engaged in it at a higher risk. We feel confident to name this new theory The Need-At-The Moment Theory, because of its social psychological nature and its affinity with economics. It prevents many prospective individuals as well as businessmen to not able to clear their valuable properties which they had invested in them earlier to be claimed in the right time in the port. Here, priority needs are given precedence more than magnitude needs in real life situation. It does make the poor African traveller not able to meet the requirement in time to clear his goods due to the social psychological factor and the need-at-the moment. He would prefer to spend money on a funeral of a dear aunt first than to spend it on claiming his goods from the port. It compels Dr. Shipman to deal with a choice between salvaging his reputation which has economic consequences or his committing suicide to avert his own family catastrophe of financial loss.

The decisions made in connection with these choices are often not able to be made known to people closer to them and not even authorities that are aware of their crucial financial situations or vulnerability in dealing with themselves. They are private and require quick stance to make those quick and rightful decisions. In the case of the African traveller and many businessmen, the need may be the obvious fact of lacking money itself or resources that concern contacts that could help these individuals to deal with their problems or clear their goods or assets in the harbour. The economic theory of The Need-At-The Moment is usually disregarded by all people, including the government as legitimate for someone or a company to use as the excuse of not being capable of clearing one's things from the harbours. It is something that nobody will be prepared to listen to as tangible for explaining the reasons why goods cannot be claimed at the right time. After all, banks and investment companies are around that are willing to give loans for any person that could present collateral security, which should not be a problem for new companies as well as established ones. The privacy nature of this need is so important to clients as well as businessmen in many of the cultures where borrowing is not practiced or the norm.


Dr. Shipman, the British practitioner, has through his medical practice met and murdered many of his patients in the attempt to enrich himself with the forged donations these patients have made to him. Suddenly, in one of the cases the children of the deceased made thorough investigation that led to the discovery of the forgery which the doctor had engaged in for ages. Shipman is arrested and faces charges of murder and professional malpractices, which could mean his forfeiting all his property and belongings, including his pension. Dr Shipman through rationalisation, superb decision ability, and his ultimate desire to be above the current problem that he faces, which has economic consequences takes the higher risk of committing suicide in order to allow his family whom he has deep sentimental affection to inherit his fortune. This involved his confrontation of making a choice to salvage his reputation, which has economic consequences or taking the higher risk of ceasing to exist which could enrich the treasury of his family.

Here, it could be asserted that the social psychological factor of circumstances influencing situational choices and the need-at-the -moment might have also contributed to this choice which Shipman made. The problem was about him exclusively, and he could have dealt with it had it not been concerned with economic matters/consequences, which led to the automatic shift of focus to those that were more close to him in affection. The case also has to do with making choices that have to do with priority need choice and magnitude need choice. In Shipman's case, though there seems to be magnitude need of living and attempt to present his case in order to defend his reputation and profession, which he could have done very well, probably saving his life and profession, or reducing sentences that would have been given him. But compared to these two choices, Shipman chose the priority need as against the magnitude need, the latter being his defending himself which would have allowed his family to loose his enormous fortune.

A poor African traveller, who had travelled to Europe for many years but had not been capable of acquiring his own resident permit decided to return to his country of origin briefly in order to visit his parents. Since he had no resident permit of his own, he decided to borrow someone's passport/travel document to make this quick journey. On this occasion he bought two cars which he had wanted to sell and make a little money in order to reduce his expenses of this travel. With this pressure on his mind, he came home and probably due to uncertainty in life discovered that one of his dear aunts who helped him when he was a child during his school age was dead. Suddenly, due to tribal needs, she was faced with either removing the cars or spending this money to help the burial ceremonies of the aunt. As the money he brought could not removed the cars later, and his own situation of using a borrowed permit he was confronted with these choices of priority need and magnitude need of either going back to Europe immediately to be with family and his continued economic support in working in Europe or stay to find ways to remove these cars in Ghana.

The African through rationalisation, superb decision ability, and his ultimate desire to be above the current problem that he faces, which has economic consequences takes the higher risk of returning to Europe in order to meet his family whom he has deep sentimental affection to be with them. The two cars brought home could not be cleared from the harbour because of the financial situation he found himself in; they became the property of the government that confiscated them. The traveller has chosen priority need as against the magnitude need of clearing his two cars he had brought with him from abroad leaving enormous debt. Due to this social-psychological factor of circumstances influencing the need situation and the economic need-at-the-moment, he makes choices that have to do with sentimental focus of his dear family and children.

The economic theory of The Need-At-The Moment is also exemplified with many Africans who live in countries where poverty is the norm and many people live from hand to mouth. Here, one will find clients as well as patients making private decisions to rather prefer to die than to utilise the only resources they have accumulated for years for their families or successors. It happens that due to the difficulty involved in making money in these countries, patients who may be rich and yet have no other persons in the family who are well to do fail on many occasions to utilise all the accumulated money they have saved in the bank or home to get proper health care when they are seriously ill which could lead to their death. They see no reason to use all resources and probably do not know whether they would get well or not; it could lead to their bankruptcy and entire family fortune disappearing overnight. This family inheriting their fortune become their ultimate sacrifice, which will make them choose to die than to empty the family treasury at one point in time. The choice they make has economic consequences, and since it concerns money matters, the focus automatically shifts from the individual to the sentimental affection with family. “What will they do after my death when all is gone?” This also has to do with priority need and magnitude need; the dying being the priority need as against the magnitude need of saving for the lives of his family. The risk becomes higher than one can think of.

Figure 1. Priority needs at the moment
IN = Immediate Needs
DN = Distance Needs
The model below shows the priority needs at the moment for the Client KM. But though in terms of priority immediate needs come first (i.e., 3), in terms of magnitude Distance needs reign supreme (6). But as the client is faced with choices, he makes the priority needs supreme as against the Distance needs which have magnitude on list. On the Y axis, however, priority needs have double strength, that is, 100 as against the Distance needs which have only 40.

Priority needs

Magnitude (weight)Magnitude (weight)

5. Discussion and Analysis
We are made to believe that individuals make decisions about economic matters not only on rational basis, but also on social-psychological grounds. When confronted with personal tragedy which individuals could have dealt with it coolly by themselves alone, the case becomes automatically shifted to the persons who the individual has sentimental affection with. This prediction is something that usually occurs in the real world. But we take it for granted that these things happen and that they concern peoples' choices with regards to priority choices as against magnitude choices. Individuals do not feel disturbed in a cognitive way for making priority needs the first, instead of the magnitude needs in the economic world where rational decision making and profit orientation tasks are appraised than sentimental one. Shipman theory should be given in-depth study to make it more reliable just like all other theories in economics.

If an individual has no one he has sentimental affection with, in matters of tragedy where there is economic consequences, the probability that he will choose the magnitude needs as against the priority needs will be higher.

Shipman, like any other person, would have defended himself rather than die.

Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D. & Akert, R. M. (2006). Social Psychology (5th ed.). New York: Longman.

Baron, A. (2006). Social Psychology (11th ed.). Boston: Allan & Bacon.

Baron, R. A., Branscombe, N. R., & Byrne, D. (2009). Social Psychology (12th ed.) Person International Edition, Boston: Person.

Brewer, M. B. & Crano, W. D. (1994). Social Psychology. New York: West Publishing.

Forsyth, R. D. (2007). Our Social World. Pacific Grove: Broks/Cole Publishing.

Gleeitman, H., Reisberg, D. & Grost, J. (2007). Psychology. International Student Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. (Read pp. 354-665).

Hogg, A. M. & Vaughan, M. D. (2007). Social Psychology. An Introduction. London: Prentice Hall.

Lord, C. G. (2006). Social Psychology. New York: Harcourt Bruce College Publishers.

Myers, G. D. (2008). Social Psychology. (8th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill Inc: University of Cape Town Press.

Sadava, S. W. & McCreary, D. R. (2005). Applied Social Psychology. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.

Sear, O. D., Peplau A. L. & Taylor, E. S. (2006). Social Psychology (11th ed.). Englewood Clefts. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Tredous, C. Et al., (2005). Psychology and the Law. South Africa: Juta Academic.

Worchel, S. Cooper, J. & Goethals R. G. (2007). Understanding Social Psychology (10th ed.). Pacific Grave, California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

Wrightsman, S. W. Et al. (2004). Psychology and the Legal System. Pacific Grove: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

The Author of this article is a former Associate Professor in Åbo Akademi University in Finland and Uppsala University in Sweden. He is currently at the University of Ghana, Legon, at the Department of Psychology as a lecturer.

quot-img-1Heal a gossip with exposure.

By: VCT Ofinam-Antwi quot-img-1