Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain (Book Review)

On December 15, 2013
neuroeconomicsOver the past decade there has been a tremendous growth in both scholarly and popular interest at the intersection of neuroscience, economics, and psychology. 15 years ago less than four academic papers were published a year that were tagged with both brain and decision making as keywords. Today, hundreds are published each year and that number doubles approximately every three years. Paul W. Glimcher, Ernst Fehr, Colin F. Camerer and Russell A. Poldrack (four of the heavy neuroeconomists of the moment), the editors of Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain (2008) aimed to provide a comprehensive source for academic scholars that provides a complete survey of the field at a technical level. Neuroeconomics is a great reference for neuroscientists and economists looking for a summary of what has already been published in this emerging field.
In over 500 pages, the book is comprised of independent chapters and the authors include both the editors and a variety of other authors including: John O’Doherty, Antonio Damasio, Daniel Kahneman, Read Montague, Wolfram Schultz, Alan Sanfey and Brian Knutson. For a reader looking to gain a deeper understanding of one or more of the subareas of this field, the chapters can be read in any order. The authors advise us to use the book as:

  • a handbook (“Handbook of Neuroeconomics”) – a volume that can be picked up by a practicing economist, psychologist or neuroscientist from which he or she can gain understanding of the accomplishments and challenges in Neuroeconomics (behavioral economics, social neuroscience or neurobiology) today.
  • a textbook – appropriate for use in a seminar course on Neuroeconomics. Each chapter provides necessary background information for interdisciplinary students and offers sufficient depth for experts.
  • a time capsule that documents the field of Neuroeconomics just as it is beginning

The book is structured into 5 sections:

  • Neoclassical economic approaches to the brain (for economists)
  • Behavioral economics and the brain (for psychologists)
  • Social decision making, neuroeconomics and emotion (for social psychologists)
  • Understanding valuation – learning valuations (for neurobiologists)
  • The neural mechanisms for choice (for neurobiologists)

The book can be read from cover-to-cover and the result of that approach should be a solid starting point for future work in all of the parent disciplines from which Neuroeconomics is drawn. Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain is readable and informative and it is addressed primarily to economists and neuroscientists looking for the frontier in neuroeconomics, and succeeds to gather the literature of neuroeconomics together in one volume.

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