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  • Don Ross (a1)

I distinguish between two styles of research that are both called “neuroeconomics”. Neurocellular economics (NE) uses the modelling techniques and mathematics of economics – constrained maximization and equilibrium analysis – to model relatively encapsulated functional parts of brains. This approach rests upon the fact that brains are, like markets, massively distributed information-processing networks over which executive systems can exert only limited and imperfect governance. Harrison's (2008) deepest criticisms of neuroeconomics do not apply to NE. However, the more famous style of neuroeconomics is behavioural economics in the scanner. This is often motivated by complaints about conventional economics frequently heard from behavioural economists. It attempts to use neuroimaging data to justify arguments for replacing standard aspects of microeconomic theory by facts and conjectures about human psychology. Harrison's grounds for unease about neuroeconomics apply to most BES, or at least to its explicit methodology. This methodology is naively reductionist and illegitimately assumes that economics should not do what all successful science does, namely, model abstract aspects of its target phenomena instead of would-be complete and fully ecologically situated facsimiles of them.

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C. Camerer , G. Loewenstein and D. Prelec . 2005. Neuroeconomics: how neuroscience can inform economics. Journal of Economic Literature 43: 964.

A. Caplin and M. Dean . 2007. The neuroeconomic theory of learning. American Economic Review 97: 148–52.

C. Gallistel and J. Gibbon . 2000. Time, rate and conditioning. Psychological Review 107: 289344.

P. Glimcher , J. Kable and K. Louie . 2007. Neuroeconomic studies of impulsivity: now or just as soon as possible? American Economic Review 97: 142–7.

B. Knutson , S. Rick , G. E. Wimmer , D. Prelec and G. Loewenstein . 2007. Neural predictors of purchases. Neuron 53: 147–56.

S. McClure , D. Laibson , G. Loewenstein and J. Cohen . 2004. Separate neural systems value immediate and delayed monetary rewards. Science 306: 503–7.

R. Montague and G. Berns . 2002. Neural economics and the biological substrates of valuation. Neuron 36: 265–84.

M. Platt and P. Glimcher . 1999. Neural correlates of decision variables in parietal cortex. Nature 400: 233–8.

D. Ross 2005. Economic theory and cognitive science: Microexplanation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

D. Satz and J. Ferejohn . 1994. Rational choice and social theory. Journal of Philosophy 91: 7187.

W. Schultz , P. Dayan and P. R. Montague . 1997. A neural substrate of prediction and reward. Science 275: 1593–9.

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Economics & Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0266-2671
  • EISSN: 1474-0028
  • URL: /core/journals/economics-and-philosophy
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