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Reason, Emotion and Information Processing in the Brain

  • Brocas, Isabelle
  • Carrillo, Juan D
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    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 C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 6535.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6535
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    1. 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.
    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. Meyer, Margaret A, 1991. "Learning from Coarse Information: Biased Contests and Career Profiles," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(1), pages 15-41, January.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 2011. "Risk, Delay, and Convex Self-Control Costs," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 34-68, August.
    7. Aldo Rustichini & John Dickhaut & Paolo Ghirardato & Kip Smith & Jose V. Pardo, 2002. "A brain imaging study of the choice procedure," CEEL Working Papers 0217, Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
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