Neural Findings and Economic Models: Why Brains have Limited Relevance for Economics

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Abstract

Proponents of neuroeconomics often argue that better knowledge of the human neural architecture enables economists to improve standard models of choice. In their view, these improvements provide compelling reasons to use neural findings in constructing and evaluating economic models. In a recent article, I criticized this view by pointing to the trade-offs between the modeling desiderata valued by neuroeconomists and other economists, respectively. The present article complements my earlier critique by focusing on three modeling desiderata that figure prominently in economic and neuroeconomic modeling. For each desideratum, I examine findings that neuroeconomists deem to be especially relevant for economists and argue that neuroeconomists have failed to substantiate their calls to use these findings in constructing and evaluating economic models. In doing so, I identify methodological and evidential constraints that will continue to hinder neuroeconomists’ attempts to improve such models. Moreover, I draw on the literature on scientific modeling to advance the ongoing philosophical discussion regarding the prospects of interdisciplinary models of choice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-629
Number of pages24
JournalPHILOSOPHY OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES
Volume44
Issue number5
Early online date29 Apr 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014

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