Monetary policy and the management of uncertainty: a narrative approach

Staff working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 05 June 2020

Staff Working Paper No. 870

By David Tuckett, Douglas Holmes, Alice Pearson and Graeme Chaplin

In this paper we explore how macroeconomic theory might be augmented, and the practice of monetary policy better understood, if approached through ideas from social and psychological science. A modern, inflation-targeting central bank faces ‘radical’ uncertainty both in understanding the economy and in knowing how best to communicate policy decisions to influence behaviour. We make use of narrative theory to explore these challenges, drawing on fieldwork with the Bank’s regional Agencies and conversations with staff and policy-makers. We find that the intelligence gathered from conversations with businesses is uniquely useful for both the analysis and communication of monetary policy. Such intelligence embodies knowledge about the plans which are making the future. It also provides insights into how economic agents understand the economy they are creating. These insights can help the Monetary Policy Committee to communicate its policy as a narrative the public understands and commits to. We propose further research to advance and test these ideas.

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