Economics and Philosophy

Essay

NEUROECONOMICS: A CRITICAL RECONSIDERATION

Glenn W. Harrisona1 c1

a1 University of Central Florida

Abstract

Understanding more about how the brain functions should help us understand economic behaviour. But some would have us believe that it has done this already, and that insights from neuroscience have already provided insights in economics that we would not otherwise have. Much of this is just academic marketing hype, and to get down to substantive issues we need to identify that fluff for what it is. After we clear away the distractions, what is left? The answer is that a lot is left, but it is still all potential. That is not a bad thing, or a reason to stop the effort, but it does point to the need for a serious reconsideration of what neuroeconomics is and what passes for explanation in this literature. I argue that neuroeconomics can be a valuable field, but not the way it is being developed and “sold” now. The same is true more generally of behavioural economics, which shares many of the methodological flaws of neuroeconomics.

Correspondence

c1 Department of Economics, College of Business Administration, University of Central Florida, USA, and Durham Business School, Durham University, UK (part-time). Email contact: gharrison@research.bus.ucf.edu.

Footnotes

Thanks to the U.S. National Science Foundation for research support under grants NSF/HSD 0527675 and NSF/SES 0616746, to Michael Caputo, John Dickhaut, Mark Dickie, Milton Heifetz, Richard Hofler, Julian Jamison and Elisabet Rutström for helpful discussions, and to John Hey and Giacomo Bonanno for the invitation to be a piñata.