Neuroeconomics: more than inspiration, less than revolution

Journal of Economic Methodology 17 (2):159-169 (2010)
Abstract
Gul and Pesendorfer (2008) argue that neuroeconomics is evidentially and explanatorily irrelevant to economics, because neuroeconomics and economics ask different questions and utilize different abstractions. They suggest neuroeconomics is only relevant as a source of inspiration for economists. The present paper accepts their basic premise and asks whether the fact that neuroeconomics and economics ask different questions implies that neuroeconomics is irrelevant. The paper argues that Gul and Pesendorfer overlook some important respects in which neuroeconomics is relevant for economics. First, neuroeconomics can improve singular explanations in economics. Second, and more importantly, it improves our understanding of economic phenomena. And finally, it helps us assess the plausibility of our conjectures concerning economic phenomena. It may be true that neuroeconomics will not revolutionize economics (at least in the short run), but it is more than a source of inspiration.
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