Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Homo Economicus?

Researchers have identified brain cells involved in economic choice behavior:

The scientists, who reported the findings in the journal Nature, located the neurons in an area of the brain known as the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) while studying macaque monkeys which had to choose between different flavours and quantities of juices.
They correlated the animals’ choices with the activity of neurons in the OFC with the valued assigned to the different types of juices. Some neurons would be highly active when the monkeys selected three drops of grape juice, for example, or 10 drops of apple juice.
This is cool on a couple of levels. First is that there’s a cross-disciplinary synthesis under way between biology, psychology, and economics that is yielding some pretty nifty results. Maybe the days of treating preferences as fixed and exogenous are numbered :^). Second, apparently it’s totally cool to do experimental economics with non-human primates. There are implications aplenty there, but perhaps I am reading too much into this.
Update: An early draft of the paper is available on-line.