Regional development policy is an enduring function of government, but it has adopted many different styles from top-down activism to, more recently, assisting local communities to take greater control of their own destinies. For example, conventional wisdom advocates empowering local leaderships, conducting SWOT surveys and identifying strategic plans to improve infrastructure and services. This article, which consummates several decades of research, focuses closely on one neglected aspect of self-help - the psychology of local development - and argues that it is a potentially critical ingredient in that task. The approach is conceptual rather than empirical and sets out a possible research agenda placing human behaviours at the fulcrum of regional economics, much as appear to be happening with economics itself. Economic systems are not mechanistic like the universe, but operate more akin to wicked problems and social messes, in which human psychology and behaviours can assume great importance.