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Can neuroimaging inform economic theories of decision making?

Authors Farb NA

Received 18 October 2012

Accepted for publication 12 December 2012

Published 22 January 2013 Volume 2013:2 Pages 1—10

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/NAN.S39339

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Norman AS Farb

Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Abstract: Neuroimaging has grown in prominence with the popularization of relatively inexpensive and noninvasive techniques. The popular conception of neuroimaging is that it can finely describe a person's internal states and proclivities, providing veridical evidence in real-world situations, such as criminal trials, or in predicting consumer behavior. However, the scientific reality is far from this ideal; current neuroimaging techniques lack the precision to predict specific behaviors or preferences. Nonetheless, these techniques still possess considerable utility in describing forms of cognition that are recruited during decision making, such as an individual's tendency to focus on risk or reward. Such investigations can inform economic theory by characterizing contextual influences in decision making, revealing sources of bias in how value is appraised, generating new research hypotheses, and eventually leading to a more complete theory of human behavior. This review paper summarizes recent research that advances our understanding of the neural networks underlying decision making and outlines the strengths and limitations of current neuroimaging analysis techniques for informing neuroeconomic theory.

Keywords: neuroimaging, fMRI, decision making, neuroeconomics, systems neuroscience

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