Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain-The Science of Neuroeconomics

The book Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics by Paul Glimcher attempts to outline the new science of neuroeconomics. As a new science it is suffering from a lack of theory to build a comprehensive association that fits the truckloads of data that have been pulled from both psychology and economics. At the very core of the science rests the neurological functions of the brain and how they impact theory. 

The book provides strong details on stimulus-response based within reflexology. Furthermore, the work provides some historical discussion on the simple and complex behavior proposed by Rene Descartes and some of the philosophers that have led o the modern field of neuroeconomics. The book also discusses the concepts of survival of the fittest, reflexology, probability, game theory, brain games, economics and the resulting philosophical implications. The later part of the work is more devoted to the ill defined theory of neuroeconomics.

The premise of the book is that the body takes sensory information from its environment and engages in a number of predictable behaviors at the neurological level and unpredictable behaviors yet to be defined. However, each behavior is designed to encourage either the survival or the economic gain of the person. The way people think (cognition) and behavior (volition) is based upon what information they draw from the environment and how they interpret that behavior. 

The book provides its own definition of the science:

Several of the experiments I have described in previous chapters seem to validate this notion that economic models, with roots in both game theory and more classical economic approaches, will be useful tools for linking brain activity with behavior. As an example, many of the experiments from my own laboratory have focused on demonstrating that both the choice behavior of monkeys and the behavior of the individual parietal neurons are well described by economic tools. The goal of the neuroeconomic approach, however has to be much larger than an attempt to understand the activity of a few parietal neurons. The ultimate goal of any neuroeconomic approach must be to provide an overarching theory of how the computations that underlie behavior are organized and produced by the brain” (Glimber, 2004, pg. 322).

As of yet the science has not provided a strong enough rational cohesive theory. The book does not provide such a theoretical explanation but does move just a fraction closer than its predecessors. Between the lines one can intuitively understand how man finds a goal and then sets upon that goal using all of his senses to obtain information for probabilistic economic measuring. It is the result of these measures that determine complex behavior. However, the book doesn’t specifically state this concept and it may be some time until an appropriate definition has been generated from the body of researchers. 

The book is written at a graduate level and moves through a number of different explanations and theories. It starts at the root theories and moves through more modern experiments that help define those concepts. It is a strong book for those who want to understand decision making and reasoning using a neurological lens. However, if one were seeking concise information on neuroscience, and its application in today’s world, they may be disappointed. 

Author: Paul W. Glimcher is Associate Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at the Center for Neural Science, New York University. More Information From the Publisher.

Glimcher, P. (2004). Decisions, Uncertainty and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics. MA, Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN: 978-0-262-07244-1

Price: $27 (Paperback)
Pages: 345
Blog Rating 4.2/5

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