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March 17, 2007, 2:30 PM

Neuroeconomics: The Secret Life of Homo Economicus

Participants: Alberto Bisin, William Brown, Paul Glimcher, Edward Nersessian (moderator), Elizabeth Phelps

In recent years the field of economics has begun taking a closer look at the behavior of that economic actor, the human being. How does emotion, for example, affect economic outcomes, both for individuals and for society? Behavioral economics has thus become an entirely new branch of economics. Lately the inquiry into what drives economic decision-making has focused in even more closely: now economists together with psychologists are using magnetic resonance imaging and other high-tech observational techniques to examine the brains of individuals as they engage in financial and economic decision-making.

This discussion will bring together two neuroscientists and two economists to examine the relationship between the brain and economics. Can we make better decisions as a society if we understand the neural basis of economic decision-making? What does this field tell us about how we can optimize our own personal decision-making? Why do some economists reject the approach altogether? Where is neuroeconomics taking us?

Alberto Bisin is Associate Professor of Economics at New York University. He is an Associate Editor of Research in Economics and Economic Theory and has written numerous articles for economics journals.

William Brown has long been in the economic forecasting business, formerly as Chief Economist at JP Morgan, and currently as an Economic Advisor to Barclays Capital and as an independent macro economic trader.

Paul Glimcher is Associate Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at New York University's Center for Neural Science. He is an Investigator for the National Eye Institute and Founding President of the Society for Neuroeconomics. He is the author of Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics and has written extensively for numerous science publications. Professor Glimcher's work has been covered in the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, and on National Public Radio, the BBC and Fox News, among others.

Edward Nersessian (moderator) is a psychoanalyst and Co-Director of the Philoctetes Center.

Elizabeth Phelps, PhD, is Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at the New York University. She is currently the President of the Society for Neuroeconomics and serves on the Boards of the Association for Psychological Science and the Society of Neuroethics. Her research focuses on how human learning and memory are changed by emotion and how this influences their decisions. Her work has recently been highlighted in articles in The New York Times, Time Magazine, and The New Yorker, among other media outlets.


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