John Cassidy of the New Yorker has penned an article on neuroeconomics that surely is one of the finest to date. To the extent that any magazine article about a rapidly evolving topic can be a classic, Mind Games – What neuroeconomics tells us about money and the brain is sure to become one. Running well over 5,000 words, the article includes first-hand interviews with neuroeconomics luminaries, as well as Cassidy’s own experience inside an fMRI machine.
One of the many interesting quotes in the article is from David Laibson, a Harvard professorand consumer behavior expert:
Natural science has moved ahead by studying progressively smaller units. Physicists started out studying the stars, then they looked at objects, molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, and so on. My sense is that economics is going to follow the same path. Forty years ago, it was mainly about large-scale phenomena, like inflation and unemployment. More recently, there has been a lot of focus on individual decision-making. I think the time has now come to go beyond the individual and look at the inputs to individual decision-making. That is what we do in neuroeconomics.
The article closes with a quote from neuroeconomics pioneer Colin Camerer of Caltech:
We are not going to falsify all of traditional economics, but we are going to point to a whole range of biological variables that traditionally have not been included in the analysis. In economics, that is a big change.”
A big change indeed… If you want to get up to speed on neuroeconomics, at least enough to fool your boss or the guy next to you on the airplane, read Cassidy’s thorough and enteraining survey of the field.