USA Today Highlights Neuroeconomics


One of the most relevant and potentially fruitful areas for marketers hoping to employ neuroscience as one weapon in their arsenal is neuroeconomics – in essence, the neuroscience of decision making. Neuroeconomics seems to be more focused and more accepted than the embryonic field of neuromarketing; the latter field, of course, will benefit directly from findings in the former. Today, neuroeconomics got a publicity boost from USA Today in Study: Emotion rules the brain’s decisions. The article, by Dan Vergano, describes “framing” research by Benedetto De Martino of University College London.

We’ll cover De Martino’s work, published in the current issue of Science, in more detail in another post. In short, though, the researchers asked subjects the same question framed in a quite different way while the subjects were undergoing a brain scan. The scans showed multiple areas of the brain lighting up with activity; according to the researchers, the different areas represented emotions competing with rational decision-making processes, with emotions often dominating the process.

The article is balanced with a few cautions about reading too much into the results, which were based on a study of twenty subjects. Antonio Damasio of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Judy Illes of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University are also quoted. Overall, I think it’s good publicity for the field – not over-hyped, but rather a brief summary of the work and some background on neuroeconomics.

The article closes with,

Though neuroeconomics is a hot field, with hundreds of researchers attending a recent meeting in Paris on the topic, Damasio says brain imaging’s biggest potential lies in teaching: “Our education system ignores the role of emotion in learning and decision-making.”

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