Neural Activity Reveals Preferences Without Choices

47 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2013

See all articles by Alec Smith

Alec Smith

California Institute of Technology

B. Douglas Bernheim

Stanford University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Colin Camerer

California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Antonio Rangel

California Institute of Technology

Date Written: August 2013

Abstract

We investigate the feasibility of inferring the choices people would make (if given the opportunity) based on their neural responses to the pertinent prospects when they are not engaged in actual decision making. The ability to make such inferences is of potential value when choice data are unavailable, or limited in ways that render standard methods of estimating choice mappings problematic. We formulate prediction models relating choices to "non-choice" neural responses and use them to predict out-of-sample choices for new items and for new groups of individuals. The predictions are sufficiently accurate to establish the feasibility of our approach.

Suggested Citation

Smith, Alec and Bernheim, B. Douglas and Camerer, Colin F. and Rangel, Antonio, Neural Activity Reveals Preferences Without Choices (August 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19270. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2304696

Alec Smith (Contact Author)

California Institute of Technology ( email )

Pasadena, CA 91125
United States

B. Douglas Bernheim

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States
650-725-8732 (Phone)
650-725-5702 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Colin F. Camerer

California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences ( email )

1200 East California Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91125
United States
626-395-4054 (Phone)
626-432-1726 (Fax)

Antonio Rangel

California Institute of Technology ( email )

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