nep-neu New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2009‒08‒22
five papers chosen by
Daniel Houser
George Mason University

  1. Cultural neuroeconomics of intertemporal choice By Takahashi, Taiki; Hadzibeganovic, Tarik; Cannas, Sergio; Makino, Takaki; Fukui, Hiroki; Kitayama, Shinobu
  2. Neural Responses to Sanction Threats in Two-Party Economic Exchange By Jian Li; Erte Xiao; Daniel Houser; P Read Montague
  3. Associations among Family Environment, Attention, and School Readiness for At-Risk Children By Rachel A. Razza; Anne Martin; Jeanne Brooks-Gunn
  4. Measuring Cognitive Competencies By Ulrich Trautwein
  5. How universal is happiness? By Veenhoven, Ruut

  1. By: Takahashi, Taiki; Hadzibeganovic, Tarik; Cannas, Sergio; Makino, Takaki; Fukui, Hiroki; Kitayama, Shinobu
    Abstract: According to theories of cultural neuroscience, Westerners and Easterners may have distinct styles of cognition (e.g., different allocation of attention). Previous research has shown that Westerners and Easterners tend to utilize analytical and holistic cognitive styles, respectively. On the other hand, little is known regarding the cultural differences in neuroeconomic behavior. For instance, economic decisions may be affected by cultural differences in neurocomputational processing underlying attention; however, this area of neuroeconomics has been largely understudied. In the present paper, we attempt to bridge this gap by considering the links between the theory of cultural neuroscience and neuroeconomic theory of the role of attention in intertemporal choice. We predict that (i) Westerners are more impulsive and inconsistent in intertemporal choice in comparison to Easterners, and (ii) Westerners more steeply discount delayed monetary losses than Easterners. We examine these predictions by utilizing a novel temporal discounting model based on Tsallis' statistics (i.e. a q-exponential model). Our preliminary analysis of temporal discounting of gains and losses by Americans and Japanese confirmed the predictions from the cultural neuroeconomic theory. Future study directions, employing computational modeling via neural networks, are briefly outlined and discussed.
    Keywords: Cultural neuroscience; neuroeconomics; intertemporal choice; attention allocation; Tsallis’ statistics; neural networks
    JEL: C63 C02 Z19 C49 C91
    Date: 2009
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:pra:mprapa:16814&r=neu
  2. By: Jian Li (Department of Psychology, New York University); Erte Xiao (Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University); Daniel Houser (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science (ICES), George Mason University); P Read Montague (Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine)
    Abstract: Sanctions are used ubiquitously to enforce obedience to social norms. Recent field studies and laboratory experiments have demonstrated, however, that cooperation is sometimes reduced when incentives meant to promote pro-social decisions are added to the environment. Although a variety of explanations have been suggested, the neural foundations of this effect have not been fully explored. Using a modified trust game, we find trustees reciprocate relatively less when facing sanction threats, and the presence of sanctions significantly reduces trusteeÕs brain activities involved in social reward valuation (VMPFC, LOFC, and Amygdala), while simultaneously increases brain activities in parietal cortex previously implicated in rational decision making. Moreover, we find that neural activity in trusteeÕs VMPFC area predicts her future level of cooperation under both sanction and no-sanction conditions, and that this predictive activity can be dynamically modulated by the presence of a sanction threat.
    Date: 2009–06
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:gms:wpaper:1012&r=neu
  3. By: Rachel A. Razza (Syracuse University); Anne Martin (Columbia University); Jeanne Brooks-Gunn (Columbia University)
    Abstract: This study examined the developmental pathways from children’s family environment to school readiness within an at-risk sample (N = 1,701). Measures of the family environment (maternal parenting behaviors and maternal mental health) across early childhood were related to children’s observed sustained attention as well as to academic and behavioral outcomes at age 5 years. Results suggest specificity in the associations among attention and its correlates. Maternal parenting behaviors but not mental health explained individual differences in sustained attention, which in turn were associated with variability in children’s academic school readiness. Mediation tests confirmed that sustained attention partially accounted for the link between parenting behaviors and academic school readiness. While maternal mental health was associated with children’s behavioral school readiness, sustained attention did not play a mediating role. Findings indicate sustained attention as a potential target for efforts aimed at enhancing academic school readiness among predominantly poor and minority children.
    Date: 2009–06
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:pri:crcwel:1172&r=neu
  4. By: Ulrich Trautwein
    Abstract: The systematic of key cognitive competencies is of high scientific and societal relevance, as is the availability of high-quality data on cognitive competencies. In order to make well-informed decisions, politicians and educational authorities need high-quality data about the effectiveness of formal and non-formal educational environments. Similarly, researchers need strong data to test complex theoretical models about how individual biographies are shaped by the interplay between individual and institutional affordances and constraints. Innumerable data sets offer some form of information on competencies such as respondents’ years at school and their school grades. Such data are relatively easy to collect. When it comes to making informed political and educational decisions, however, there are increasing calls for a more systematic use of standardized competence tests. The production, storage, and use of standardized test data on competencies in specific domains is expensive, complex, and time-consuming, however. This chapter argues that there is a paucity of adequate data on cognitive competencies in important domains, especially of longitudinal data from standardized competence tests, and that for many important questions there are no good alternatives to high-quality standardized tests of cognitive competencies. Furthermore, it outlines some challenges in the construction and application of standardized competence tests and makes several recommendations.
    Keywords: cognitive competencies, assessment, intelligence, school grades
    Date: 2009
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:rsw:rswwps:rswwps86&r=neu
  5. By: Veenhoven, Ruut
    Abstract: There is a longstanding discussion on whether happiness is culturally relative or not. The following questions are addressed in that context: 1) Do we all assess how much we like our life? 2) Do we appraise our life on the same grounds? 3) Are the conditions for happiness similar for all of us? 4) Are the consequences of happiness similar in all cultures? 5) Do we all seek happiness? 6) Do we seek happiness in similar ways? 7) Do we enjoy life about equally much? The available data suggest that all humans tend to assess how much they like their life. The evaluation draws on affective experience, which is linked to gratification of universal human needs and on cognitive comparison which is framed by cultural standards of the good life. The overall appraisal seems to depend more on the former, than on the latter source of information. Conditions for happiness appear to be quite similar across the world and so are the consequences of enjoying life or not. There is more cultural variation in the valuation of happiness and in beliefs about conditions for happiness. The greatest variation is found in how happy people are.
    Keywords: happiness; life satisfaction; cultural relativism; human nature; utilitarianism
    JEL: Z10 I00 D60
    Date: 2008–10–13
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:pra:mprapa:16853&r=neu

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