"Inside the ‘Homo Oeconomicus Brain’: Towards a Reform of the Economics Curriculum?" Free Download
Forthcoming in: Journal of Business Ethics Education 11 (2014); 1-36.

MANUEL WÖRSDÖRFER, Goethe University Frankfurt

Economics students and economists have – grosso modo – a bad societal reputation. This is, roughly speaking, the provocative result of the majority of empirical studies on economic education. On average, economists and economics students behave in a more self-interested way than others; they are more prone to deviate from the moral good; they tend to free ride more often and invest less in public goods games; they are more corrupt and less honest in lost letter experiments, less cooperative in solidarity games, and accept less and keep more in ultimatum bargaining games. In short: they seem to behave more in accordance with the predictions of the rational or self-interest model of standard economics, the Homo oeconomicus model. What might be the reasons that the degree of anti-social and uncooperative behavior is on average significantly more pronounced among economics students compared to other student groups? Can these empirical findings be explained by the self-selection effect and/or the indoctrination effect? What are the implications of these empirical results for economic ethics and economic education? Which roles do the economics curriculum and economic textbooks play? Do they have any effect on everyday behavior? Is the way economics is taught at (business) schools, colleges and universities co-responsible for the considerable behavioral differences? And what can be done in order to reverse these trends and to foster other-regarding preferences and pro-social behavior? The paper analyzes these and other questions with the help of experimental economics, behavioral economics and neuroeconomics. It also draws on recent findings of brain physiology research in general and neuroplasticity in particular.


About this eJournal

This eJournal distributes working and accepted paper abstracts focused on research where economic outcomes are the product of many individual decisions, constrained by scarcity, and equilibrium forces that simultaneously shape a person's social networks and the institutionally defined rules of the game. Decisions are made by computations in the brain which produce action-choices that directly affect the homeostatic wellbeing of the individual and choices that indirectly change wellbeing by changing an individual's future constraints, the scope of their social networks, and their message sending rights within the institutions they participate. Neuroeconomics broadly speaking is interested in the study of these computations and the resulting choices they produce. This includes experiments that attempt to understand the mechanisms of neuronal computations that produce action-choices, theories which predict how neuronal computations in socio-economic environments produce decisions, outcomes and wellbeing, and policy which use our understanding of neuoroeconomic behavior to either build or defend better solutions to societal problems.

Editors: Michael C. Jensen, Harvard University, and Kevin A. McCabe, George Mason University


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Advisory Board

Neuroeconomics eJournal

Harris & Harris Group Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management, Principal Investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Professor, Baylor University - Department of Neuroscience

Professor of Economics and Law, Chapman University - Economic Science Institute, Chapman University School of Law