Duke Forest Conference 2016
Economics in the Era of Natural Computationalism and Big Data
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the
“Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata” (by John von Neumann)
Hilton Garden, Durham, North Carolina, Nov 11-13, 2016

Scott Huettel

Title: Why bother with the brain? The promise and challenge of neuroeconomics


Recent years have seen a rapid increase in the application of neuroscience methods to problems in the social sciences, most notably through the emergence of the new field of "neuroeconomics." While neuroeconomics has provided clear insights into important aspects of brain function, its value for economics has been frequently called into question, however, by the simple objection that knowledge about the brain is unnecessary for economic models. Accordingly, it is argued, while neuroscience methods can answer questions about the brain, traditional economic methods suffice for answering questions about economic phenomena. This talk will outline the history and disciplinary breadth of neureoconomics, will describe key successes and potential limitations, and will provide guidelines for the practical integration of neuroscience and economics. It will advocate for a more nuanced view of a future neuroeconomics, one that recognizes how neuroscience can be one tool in a larger program of research.

Short bio:

Prof. Scott Huettel is the Jerry G. and Patricia Crawford Hubbard Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurobiology. His research uses a combination of behavioral, genetic, physiological, and neuroscience techniques to discover the neural mechanisms that underlie higher cognition, with a focus on economic and social decision making. Much of his research - which includes collaborations with neuroscientists psychologists, behavioral economists, and business and medical faculty - falls within the emerging interdiscipline of neuroeconomics, where he is a Past-President of the Society for Neuroeconomics. He is an author of more than 120 scientific publications, including articles in Science, Nature Neuroscience, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Neuron, Psychological Science, and other top journals in several fields. His research has been featured in CNN, Newsweek, Money Magazine, NPR Science Friday, and many other media outlets. He is lead author on a primary textbook in neuroscience, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and is a co-editor of the textbook Principles of Cognitive Neuroscience. Dr. Huettel has won the Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentoring from the Duke University Graduate School, and has been recognized as one of the top 5% of undergraduate instructors at Duke.