New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2011‒06‒11
three papers chosen by

  1. Resource Allocation in the Brain By Alonso, Ricardo; Brocas, Isabelle; Carrillo, Juan D
  2. Unseen But not Unsolved: Doing Arithmetic Non-Consciously By Asael Y. Sklar; Ran R. Hassin
  3. The Inter-Generational Transmission of Cognitive Abilities in Guatemala By Ma. Cecilia Calderón; John Hoddinott

  1. By: Alonso, Ricardo; Brocas, Isabelle; Carrillo, Juan D
    Abstract: When an individual performs several tasks simultaneously, resources must be allocated to different brain systems to produce energy for neurons to fire. Following the evidence from neuroscience, we model the brain as an organization in which a coordinator allocates limited resources to the brain systems responsible for the different tasks. Systems are privately informed about the amount of resources necessary to perform their task and compete to obtain the resources. The coordinator arbitrates the demands while satisfying the resource constraint. We show that the optimal mechanism is to impose to each system with privately known needs a cap in resources that depends negatively on the amount of resources requested by the other system. This allocation can be implemented using a physiologically plausible mechanism. Finally, we provide some implications of our theory: (i) performance is inversely related to the difficulty of the task and can be flawless for sufficiently simple tasks, (ii) the dynamic allocation rule exhibits inertia (current allocations are increasing in past needs), and (iii) different cognitive tasks are performed by different systems only if the tasks are sufficiently important.
    Keywords: mechanism design; multiple brain systems; neural darwinism; neuroeconomic theory
    JEL: D71 D82 D87
    Date: 2011–06
  2. By: Asael Y. Sklar; Ran R. Hassin
    Abstract: The modal view in the cognitive sciences holds that consciousness is necessary for abstract, symbolic and rule-following computations. Hence, mathematical thinking in general, and doing arithmetic more specifically, are widely believed to require consciousness. In the current paper we use continuous flash suppression to expose participants to extremely long-duration (up to 2000 milliseconds) subliminal arithmetic equations. The results of three experiments show that the equations were solved without ever reaching consciousness. In other words, they show that arithmetic can be done unconsciously. These findings imply that the modal view of the unconscious needs to be significantly updated, to include symbolic processes that were heretofore considered to be uniquely conscious.
    Date: 2011–06
  3. By: Ma. Cecilia Calderón; John Hoddinott
    Abstract: This paper examines early childhood development (ECD) outcomes and their association with family characteristics, investments, and environmental factors, with particular emphasis on the inter-generational transmission of cognitive abilities. The paper examines the causal relationship between parental cognitive abilities and ECD outcomes of their offspring using a rich data set from rural Guatemala that can account for such unobservable factors. A 10 percent increase in maternal Raven’s scores increase children’s Raven’s scores by 7. 8 percent. A 10 percent increase in maternal reading and vocabulary skills increases children’s score on a standard vocabulary test by 5 percent. Effects are larger for older children, and the impact of maternal cognitive skills is larger than for paternal skills.
    JEL: J12 J24 N36
    Date: 2011–05

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