Neuroeconomics: How Neuroscience Can Inform Economics
California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences
MIT Sloan; MIT Department of Economics; MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Journal of Economic Literature, Forthcoming
We review recent developments in neuroeconomics and their implications for economics. The paper consists of six sections. Following the Introduction, the second section enumerates the different research methods that neuroscientists use evaluates their strengths and limitations for analyzing economic phenomena. The third section provides a review of basic findings in neuroscience that we deemed especially relevant to economics, and proposes a two-dimensional dichotomization of neural processes between automatic and controlled processes on the one hand, and cognitive and affective processes on the other. Section four reviews general implications of neuroscience for economics. Research in neuroscience, for example, raises questions about the usefulness of many economic constructs, such as 'time preference' and 'risk preference'. It also suggests that, contrary to the assumption that humans are likely to possess domain-specific intelligence - to be brilliant when it comes to problems that the brain is well evolved for performing and flat-footed for problems that lie outside of the brains existing specialized functions. Section 5 provides more detailed discussions of four specific applications: intertemporal choice, decision making under risk and uncertainty, game theory, and labor-market discrimination. Section 6 concludes by proposing a distinction between two general approaches in applying neuroscience to economics which we term 'incremental' and 'radical'. The former draws on neuroscience findings to refine existing economic models, while the latter poses more basic challenges to the standard economic understanding of human behavior.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 92
Keywords: Neuroeconomics, neuroscience
JEL Classification: D00, C82
Date posted: September 17, 2004
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