Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics

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Overview

In this provocative book, Paul Glimcher argues that economic theory may provide an alternative to the classical Cartesian model of the brain and behavior. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) believed that all behaviors could be divided into two categories, the simple and the complex. Simple behaviors were those in which a given sensory event gave rise deterministically to an appropriate motor response. Complex behaviors were those in which the relationship between stimulus and response was unpredictable. These behaviors were the product of a process that Descartes called the soul, but that a modern scientist might call cognition or volition.

Glimcher argues that Cartesian dualism operates from the false premise that the reflex is able to describe behavior in the real world that animals inhabit. A mathematically rich cognitive theory, he claims, could solve the most difficult problems that any environment could present, eliminating the need for dualism by eliminating the need for a reflex theory. Such a mathematically rigorous description of the neural processes that connect sensation and action, he explains, will have its roots in microeconomic theory. Economic theory allows physiologists to define both the optimal course of action that an animal might select and a mathematical route by which that optimal solution can be derived. Glimcher outlines what an economics-based cognitive model might look like and how one would begin to test it empirically. Along the way, he presents a fascinating history of neuroscience. He also discusses related questions about determinism, free will, and the stochastic nature of complex behavior.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

" Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain is a worthwhile book."
William H. Redmond Journal of Economic Issues

The MIT Press

"The book is an absorbing introduction to the emerging field of neuroeconomics, which combines economic concepts with the study of brains and behavior in humans and animals. Decisions,
Uncertainty and theBrain makes a strong case that the marriage of neuroscience's history and of philosophical implications of neuroeconomics." Kenneth Silber Tech Central Station

The MIT Press

"The book is an absorbing introduction to the emerging field of neuroeconomics."
Kenneth Silber Tech Central Station

The MIT Press

"This book will surely ignite discussion and soul searching among serious neuroscientists..." P. Read Montague Nature

The MIT Press

"This book will surely ignite discussion and soul searching among serious neuroscientists." P. Read Montague Nature

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262072441
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Pages: 395
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul W. Glimcher is Associate Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at the Center for
Neural Science, New York University.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Further Reading
Preface
I Historical Approaches 1
1 Rene Descartes and the Birth of Neuroscience 3
2 Inventing the Reflex 33
3 Charles Sherrington and the Propositional Logic of Reflexes 55
4 Finding the Limits of the Sherringtonian Paradigm 77
5 Neurobiology Today: Beyond Reflexology? 111
6 Global Computation: An Alternative to Sherrington? 131
7 Modularity and Evolution 145
II Neuroeconomics 169
8 Defining the Goal: Extending Marr's Approach 171
9 Evolution, Probability, and Economics 205
10 Probability, Valuation, and Neural Circuits: A Case Study 225
11 Irreducible Uncertainty and the Theory of Games 271
12 Games and the Brain 299
13 Putting It All Together I. Behavior and Physiology 319
14 Putting It All Together II. Philosophical Implications 337
References 347
Index 355
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2007

    A layman¿s introduction to the science of neuroeconomics

    This book offers an outstanding survey of philosophy, psychology, brain science, economics, and the field that brings them all together, neuroeconomics. Paul W. Glimcher contends that Descartes¿ deterministic theory that simple behavior operates according to reflexes is influential far beyond its merits. He describes numerous experiments that support a very different understanding of behavior, which says that organisms seeking to fulfill their own goals (mostly to perpetuate their genes) must ¿choose¿ behaviors that somehow account for risk and return. In other words, they maximize ¿inclusive fitness¿ under conditions of uncertainty. Laboratory experiments and field research by behavioral ecologists lend considerable support to this view. We recommend this solid, layman¿s introduction to neuroeconomics and a remarkable series of discoveries.

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