Much research on economic behavior has been devoted to demonstrating deviations from standard economic theories. Such descriptive research has proven invaluable in showing that systematic violations of the norm occur frequently in human decision making. Here, we advocate a shift to a more process-focused research approach aimed at uncovering the why of economic behavior. We provide several examples highlighting that seemingly similar phenomena can be governed by very different psychological processes, that the same processes can have explanatory power in very different domains, and that the situational context is a crucial determinant of the mental processes governing behavior. In doing so, we advocate a social-cognitive perspective on economic behavior, aimed at revealing the psychological mechanisms that shape how people construe a particular situation. We hope that such a perspective can contribute to theoretical and empirical integration, novel predictions, and more precise strategies to change behavior. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.