The Methodologies of Neuroeconomics
We critically review the methodological practices of two research programs which are jointly called 'neuroeconomics'. We defend the first of these, termed 'neurocellular economics' (NE) by Ross (2008), from an attack on its relevance by Gul and Pesendorfer (2008) (GP). This attack arbitrarily singles out some but not all processing variables as unimportant to economics, is insensitive to the realities of empirical theory testing, and ignores the central importance to economics of 'ecological rationality' (Smith 2007). GP ironically share this last attitude with advocates of 'behavioral economics in the scanner' (BES), the other, and better known, branch of neuroeconomics. We consider grounds for skepticism about the accomplishments of this research program to date, based on its methodological individualism, its ad hoc econometrics, its tolerance for invalid reverse inference, and its inattention to the difficulties involved in extracting temporally lagged data if people's anticipation of reward causes pre-emptive blood flow.
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