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Regular version of the site
Bachelor 2020/2021

Introduction to Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions

Type: Elective course (Journalism)
Area of studies: Journalism
Delivered by: School of Media
When: 3 year, 3 module
Mode of studies: distance learning
Language: English
ECTS credits: 3

Course Syllabus

Abstract

Economics, psychology, and neuroscience are converging today into a unified discipline of Neuroeconomics with the ultimate aim of creating a single, general theory of human decision-making. Neuroeconomics provides biologists, economists, psychologists and social scientists with a deeper understanding of how they make their own decisions and how others decide. Neuroscience, when allied with psychology and economics, creates powerful new models to explain why we make decisions. Neurobiological mechanisms of decision-making, decisions under risk, trust and cooperation will be central issues in this course. You will be provided with the most recent evidence from brain-imaging techniques (fMRI, TMS, etc.) and introduced to the explanatory models behind them. The course does not require any prior study of economics and neuroscience; however, it might require you to study novel interdisciplinary materials. The course provides an introduction to the methodology, assumptions, and main findings of Neuroeconomics. Our students have different backgrounds; therefore, I have adapted and simplified the course to allow all students to understand the interdisciplinary content. This course will help you to start your progress in the field of Neuroeconomics and to further develop your skills during other more advanced courses and trainings in the future. For some topics, the course will also provide supplementary videos to reveal the opinions of leading experts in the field. Each module provides optional reading material.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • To familiarize how neuroscience, in conjunction with psychology and Economics, creates powerful new models that explain why we make decisions.
  • To familiarize the neurobiological mechanisms of decision - making, risk-taking, trust and collaboration.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Reads and understands results of Neuroeconomics papers.
  • Names terminology and experimental methods of Neuroeconomics.
  • Names main features of the Diffusion Model.
  • Understands the role of emotion in decision-making and to introduce theories and basic findings of Neuroeconomics in this context.
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction to the Course
  • Introduction and Scope of Neuroeconomics
    This lecture will provide an introduction to the course and a historical overview of the field and will explore major assumptions of Neuroeconomics. We'll discuss the need for Neuroeconomics and the limitations of the traditional fields of economics, psychology, and neuroscience. Can we predict decisions based on neural activity? Can we change human decisions using brain stimulation techniques? Does Neuroeconomics change views on free will and free decisions?
  • Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology, and Neuroimaging: Tools of Neuroeconomics
    We will start with a short introduction to cognitive neuroscience, brain anatomy, and brain functions and continue with a discussion of various methods of measuring brain activity, including brain imaging methods (EEG, MEG, fMRI), transcranial brain stimulation (TMS), cell recording, and data visualization, and interpretation of the results. The main goal of this lecture is to help you read and understand results of Neuroeconomics papers.
  • Introducing Brain Models of Decision-Making and Choice
    Now we will start our journey in Neuroeconomic theories and findings. You will learn the main features of the Diffusion Model, the most popular theoretical model of decision-making in Neuroeconomics. We will apply this model to single-neuron activity in a monkey cortex and to the human brain in order to understand how brains program decisions.
  • Neural Representation of Subjective Value
    Why do we make decisions? Perhaps we do so to activate our neurons. During this lecture, we will discuss how neurons assign values to different options during the decision-making process. We will also discuss the central role of the nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal cortex in the valuation process. To make adaptive decisions, we must evaluate the costs and benefits of available options. Neuroeconomics has set itself the ambitious goal of understanding the brain mechanisms that are responsible for these evaluative processes. Neuroeconomics has also focused on describing the neural signals related to learning the value of stimuli and actions. Overall, this lecture will present some key ideas of Neuroeconomics.
  • Affective Mechanisms of Decision-Making
    The influence of emotions on decision-making is largely ignored in decision theories. Our objective in this lecture is to explore the role of emotion in decision-making and to introduce theories and basic findings of Neuroeconomics in this context. For example, the neuroeconomic studies of decision-making in neurological patients who can no longer process emotional information normally suggest that people make judgments based not only on evaluations of the values of options and probabilities of outcomes but often primarily on emotions.
  • Dual Process Theory of Decision-Making: Toward a Neuroeconomics Perspective
    Studies in Neuroeconomics have found evidence suggesting that the brain may employ multiple levels of processing when making decisions, and this conclusion is consistent with dual-processing theories that have received extensive theoretical consideration in the field of cognitive psychology. During this lecture, we will discuss the classic and cutting-edge research studies supporting dual process theory.
  • Decision-Making under Risk: Toward a Neuroeconomics Mechanism
    commonly considered by economists and neuroeconomists is risk, which refers to situations in which we know the probabilities of possible outcomes. For example, if you play roulette in Monte Carlo, you are making a decision under risk since you know the probability of winning and thus how much you should expect to lose. A neuroeconomic approach to studying decisions under risk and an anticipatory affect model suggesting that the balance of activity in the set brain areas (insular cortex and nucleus accumbens) promotes either approach toward or avoidance of risk.
  • The Social Brain: Games in the Brain
    Ancient Greek philosophers observed that we are fundamentally a social species. Indeed, the human brain has evolved to deal with complex social interactions. Day by day, we collectively analyze problems or situations and evaluate alternative courses of action within social groups. Game theory has proven useful in the investigation of the neural basis of social interactions and social decision-making. In particular, researchers have investigated what happens in the brains of subjects involved in games where each player can choose between cooperative and non-cooperative behaviors or between altruistic and selfish behaviors. Here we will apply game theory to studying the neural mechanism of decisions to cooperate or to defect. The mirror neurons mechanism of social interaction.
  • Evolutionary Perspective of Decision-Making
    Neuroeconomics investigates the origins of human decision-making by examining whether similar choice biases are seen in nonhuman primates, our closest phylogenetic relatives. Comparative studies can identify shared versus human-unique tendencies in decision-making. Here we will compare animal and human decision-making mechanisms.The theory of biological markets. At the beginning of the lecture, we will discuss the ontogenetic origin of human cooperation.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Test. Introduction and Scope of Neuroeconomics
  • non-blocking Paper. Do people have Free Will...?
  • non-blocking Test. Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology
  • non-blocking Test. Decision-Making
  • non-blocking Paper. Critical review: Diffusion model
  • non-blocking Test. The Nucleus Accumbens
  • non-blocking Test. Emotional Stimuli
  • non-blocking Test. The dark side of emotion in decision-making
  • non-blocking Test. Valuation System
  • non-blocking Test. Risk
  • non-blocking Paper. Ethical limitations in Neuroeconomics
  • non-blocking Paper. Neuroeconomics, Game Theory and decision-making in groups
  • non-blocking Test. Cooperation
  • non-blocking Essay. Biological mechanisms of decisions: The role of testosterone in decision-making
  • non-blocking Final Exam
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (3 module)
    0.28 * Final Exam + 0.04 * Essay. Biological mechanisms of decisions: The role of testosterone in decision-making + 0.04 * Paper. Critical review: Diffusion model + 0.04 * Paper. Do people have Free Will...? + 0.04 * Paper. Ethical limitations in Neuroeconomics + 0.08 * Paper. Neuroeconomics, Game Theory and decision-making in groups + 0.04 * Test. Cooperation + 0.04 * Test. Decision-Making + 0.04 * Test. Emotional Stimuli + 0.04 * Test. Introduction and Scope of Neuroeconomics + 0.08 * Test. Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology + 0.04 * Test. Risk + 0.04 * Test. The dark side of emotion in decision-making + 0.08 * Test. The Nucleus Accumbens + 0.08 * Test. Valuation System
Bibliography

Bibliography

Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Bonanno, G., List, C., Tungodden, B., & Vallentyne, P. (2008). Introduction To The Special Issue Of Economics And Philosophy On Neuroeconomics. Economics and Philosophy, (03), 301. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsrep&AN=edsrep.a.cup.ecnphi.v24y2008i03p301.302.00
  • McCabe, K., & Houser, D. (2008). Neuroeconomics. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=283962
  • Paul W. Glimcher, & Ernst Fehr. (2014). Neuroeconomics : Decision Making and the Brain (Vol. 2nd edition). Amsterdam: Academic Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=486337

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Daniel Serra. (2019). Neuroeconomics and modern neuroscience. CEE-M Working Papers. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsrep&AN=edsrep.p.hal.wpceem.halshs.02160907
  • Politser, P. E. (2008). Neuroeconomics : A Guide to the New Science of Making Choices. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=218094