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Is neuroeconomics doomed by the reverse inference fallacy?

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  • Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde

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Abstract

Neuroeconomic studies are liable to fall into the reverse inference fallacy, a form of affirmation of the consequent. More generally neuroeconomics relies on two problematic steps, namely the inference from brain activities to the engagement of cognitive processes in experimental tasks, and the presupposition that such inferred cognitive processes are relevant to economic theorizing. The first step only constitutes the reverse inference fallacy proper and ways to correct it include a better sense of the neural response selectivity of the targeted brain areas and a better definition of relevant cognitive ontologies for neuroeconomics. This second way also allows increased coherence between the cognitive processes actually involved in neuroeconomics experiments and the theoretical constructs of economics. We suggest means of increasing neural response selectivity in neuroeconomic experimental paradigms. We also discuss how the choice of cognitive ontologies can both avoid implicit reductionist strategies (from economic constructs to neural patterns) and irrelevance, as cognitive processes engaged in experimental tasks may lack immediate bearing on the study of economic behavior. With these joint improvements neuroeconomics can be a progressive science. Copyright Springer-Verlag 2010

Suggested Citation

  • Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde, 2010. "Is neuroeconomics doomed by the reverse inference fallacy?," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 9(2), pages 229-249, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minsoc:v:9:y:2010:i:2:p:229-249
    DOI: 10.1007/s11299-010-0076-z
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Loomes, Graham & Sugden, Robert, 1982. "Regret Theory: An Alternative Theory of Rational Choice under Uncertainty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 805-824, December.
    2. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    3. Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde & Carl Schoonover, 2008. "Cross-talk in economics and neuroscience," Post-Print ijn_00432665, HAL.
    4. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2005. "The Case for Mindless Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 784828000000000581, David K. Levine.
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