Physiological utility theory and the neuroeconomics of choice

Games Econ Behav. 2005 Aug;52(2):213-256. doi: 10.1016/j.geb.2004.06.011.


Over the past half century economists have responded to the challenges of Allais [Econometrica (1953) 53], Ellsberg [Quart. J. Econ. (1961) 643] and others raised to neoclassicism either by bounding the reach of economic theory or by turning to descriptive approaches. While both of these strategies have been enormously fruitful, neither has provided a clear programmatic approach that aspires to a complete understanding of human decision making as did neoclassicism. There is, however, growing evidence that economists and neurobiologists are now beginning to reveal the physical mechanisms by which the human neuroarchitecture accomplishes decision making. Although in their infancy, these studies suggest both a single unified framework for understanding human decision making and a methodology for constraining the scope and structure of economic theory. Indeed, there is already evidence that these studies place mathematical constraints on existing economic models. This article reviews some of those constraints and suggests the outline of a neuroeconomic theory of decision.