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The Brain as a Hierarchical Organization


  • Isabelle Brocas
  • Juan D. Carrillo


Based on recent neuroscience evidence, we model the brain as a dual-system organization subject to three conflicts: asymmetric information, temporal horizon, and incentive salience. Under the first and second conflicts, we show that the uninformed system imposes a positive link between consumption and labor at every period. Furthermore, decreasing impatience endogenously emerges as a consequence of these two conflicts. Under the first and third conflicts, it becomes optimal to set a consumption cap. Finally, we discuss the behavioral implications of these rules for choice bracketing and expense tracking, and for consumption over the life cycle. (JEL D11, D74, D82, D87, D91)

Suggested Citation

  • Isabelle Brocas & Juan D. Carrillo, 2008. "The Brain as a Hierarchical Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1312-1346, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:98:y:2008:i:4:p:1312-46 Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.98.4.1312

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D87 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Neuroeconomics
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making


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