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Reason, Emotion, and Information Processing in the Brain

  • Isabelle Brocas
  • Juan D Carrillo

Building on evidence from neurobiology and neuroscience, we model the physiological limitations faced by individuals in the process of decision-making that starts with sensory perception and ends in action selection. The brain sets a neuronal threshold, observes whether the neuronal cell firing activity reaches the threshold or not, and takes the optimal action conditional on that (limited) information. We show that the optimal threshold is set in a way that existing beliefs are most likely to be confirmed and least likely to be refuted. The conclusion holds in static and dynamic settings, and with linear and quadratic loss functions. We then relate our result to the somatic marker theory, and argue that it provides support for the hypothesis that emotions help decision-making. Last, we discuss the implications for choices in concrete vs. abstract situations, for interactions in cooperative vs. competitive activities, for reactions to expected vs. unexpected events, and for the choice of cognitive vs. affective encoding channels.

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Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 122247000000001594.

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Date of creation: 07 Jan 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:122247000000001594
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.dklevine.com/

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  1. Benhabib, Jess & Bisin, Alberto, 2005. "Modeling internal commitment mechanisms and self-control: A neuroeconomics approach to consumption-saving decisions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 460-492, August.
  2. David K. Levine & Drew Fudenberg, 2006. "A Dual-Self Model of Impulse Control," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1449-1476, December.
  3. Loewenstein, George & O'Donoghue, Ted, 2004. "Animal Spirits: Affective and Deliberative Processes in Economic Behavior," Working Papers 04-14, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  4. Bechara, Antoine & Damasio, Antonio R., 2005. "The somatic marker hypothesis: A neural theory of economic decision," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 336-372, August.
  5. Drew Fudenberg & David K Levine, 2009. "Risk, Delay, and Convex Self-Control Costs," Levine's Working Paper Archive 843644000000000332, David K. Levine.
  6. Glimcher, Paul W. & Dorris, Michael C. & Bayer, Hannah M., 2005. "Physiological utility theory and the neuroeconomics of choice," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 213-256, August.
  7. Rustichini, Aldo & Dickhaut, John & Ghirardato, Paolo & Smith, Kip & Pardo, Jose V., 2005. "A brain imaging study of the choice procedure," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 257-282, August.
  8. Margaret A. Meyer, 1991. "Learning from Coarse Information: Biased Contests and Career Profiles," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 15-41.
  9. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2004. "Addiction and Cue-Triggered Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1558-1590, December.
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