Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis

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9780199744251: Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis

A new academic field, neuroeconomics, has emerged at the border of the social and natural sciences. In Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis, Paul Glimcher argues that a meaningful interdisciplinary synthesis of the study of human and animal choice is not only desirable, but also well underway, and so it is time to formally develop a foundational approach for the field. He does so by laying the philosophical and empirical groundwork and integrating the theory of choice and valuation with the relevant physical constraints and mechanisms.
While there has been an intense debate about the value and prospects of neuroeconomics, Glimcher argues that existing data from neuroeconomics' three parent fields, neuroscience, psychology and economics, already specify the basic features of the primate choice mechanism at all three levels of analysis. His central argument is that combining these three disciplines gives us enough insight to define many of the fundamental features of decision making that have previously eluded scholars working within each individual field.
With this in mind, Glimcher provides a comprehensive overview of the neuroscience, psychology, and economics of choice behavior, which will help readers from many disciplines to grasp the rich interconnections between these fields and see how their data and theory can interact to produce new insights, constraints, and questions. The book is divided into four main sections that address key barriers to interdisciplinary cohesion. The first section defines the central philosophical issues that neuroeconomics must engage. The theory of knowledge already tells us much about how different disciplines interact, and in this section, Glimcher reviews those constraints and lays a philosophical foundation for future neuroeconomic discourse. This section concludes with both a defense of neoclassical economics and a spirited attack on Milton Friedman's insistence that economics must not be constrained by the study of mechanism. Glimcher argues instead for the development of "hard-economic theories", which postulate that choosers behave the way they do because of the underlying representations that occur in their brains.
The second section describes what is known about the primate choice mechanism-the physical structures in our brains that actively select among the options available to the chooser. By reviewing and integrating economic theory of choice, neurobiological studies of the frontal and parietal cortices, and psychological models of selection, Glimcher creates an interdisciplinary structure for understanding how we choose. This interdisciplinary synthesis leads to several novel insights into the causes of human irrational behavior and recasts many of these so-called irrationalities as neurobiological optimizations in the face of physical constraints.
The third section describes the neural circuits for valuation-the physical mechanisms by which we learn, store, and represent the values of the many options from which we choose. In this section, Glimcher combines studies from computer science and neuroscience with representational frameworks from economics to provide novel assessments of both the strengths and weaknesses of modern economic theory. The section ends with a discussion of behavioral neuroeconomics and the ultimate limits of the neoclassical economic program.
The book concludes with a description of a new model for human choice behavior that harvests constraints from each of neuroeconomics' parent disciplines and encapsulates the key insights from current research, as well as a review of the major accomplishments and opportunities that await the new field of neuroeconomics.

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About the Author:


Paul W. Glimcher is Professor of Neural Science, Economics and Psychology at New York University. He is the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics there, the author of Decisions, Uncertainty and the Brain (2003) and the chief editor of Neuroeconomics, Decision Making and the Brain (2009).

Review:


"Paul Glimcher is a pioneering neuroscientist, and an intrepid interdisciplinary researcher. In Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis he uses contemporary neuroscience, economics and psychology as reference points to describe the value of looking at all three fields together, and to lay out his vision of how they can be integrated as neuroeconomics."

-Al Roth, George Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration in the Department of Economics, Harvard University


"The odd coupling of neuroscience and economics produced neuroeconomics. Now, in Paul Glimcher's deep and thoughtful Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis, readers will have a chance of understanding what the new field is about along with its implications. A remarkable book from a remarkable scientist and leader of neuroeconomics."
--Antonio Damasio, David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience and Director, Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California; Author of Descartes' Error and Self Comes to Mind


"Glimcher's Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis provides an admirably clear and thought-provoking perspective on the brain science behind this exciting new field. The findings it describes offer a valuable starting point for thinking about the potential ways in which brain research may contribute to economics." --B. Douglas Bernheim, Edward Ames Edmonds Professor of Economics, Stanford University, Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), and Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research


"Real biologic meat is finally being hung on the economist's hook. Glimcher with rare clarity and explanatory skill sets the stage for the next major revolution in the social sciences--the marriage of neuroscience to economic decision making. Everybody wins, and we may finally have a science that can do more than predict last year's economic outcomes. A must read." --Michael Gazzaniga, Professor of Psychology and Director of the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind, University of California Santa Barbara


"The Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis rests on the biological basis of how we assign value and how we use these values to make choices in the face of uncertainty. However, it is equally informed by classical economics, creating the first steps toward a 'mindful economics' that includes human psychology at its center. This book sets the standards for this exciting new discipline." --Terrence Sejnowski, Francis Crick Professor, Salk Institute


"A remarkable testimony from a high priest of Neuroeconomics who believes that economics may someday be based on scientific brain observations. As someone who believes that building economic models is like writing fairytales, I am very skeptical. However, if I am wrong, this book heralds a new dawn for economics." ---Ariel Rubinstein, Professor of Economics, Tel Aviv and New York Universities


"...I was truly inspired by this book...It is an impressive piece of scholarship by one of the
world's most prominent neuroeconomists...It is beautifully written, with a voice that is
scholarly and warm at the same time." --Antonio Rangel, HSS & CNS, Caltech, Pasadena, USA


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