The INSOSCI Project contains three sub-projects. Each project is covered by one of the research teams located at Witten/Herdecke University (Germany), the University of Helsinki (Finland), and Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium).
The Witten/Herdecke team focuses on three cases in which emotional mechanisms are particularly relevant for economic contexts: (A) empathy and herding phenomena, (B) behaviour towards risk, (C) money, greed and addiction. Based on its findings, the team will show that the integration of causal models of psychology and neuroscience into economic models is problematic if the former are not sufficiently contextualized in and if strategies to distinguish common-cause structures and cause-effect structures are not rigorously applied. The integration is fruitful and reliable only if it obeys the norms of a mechanistic explanation. This has direct implications for which kinds of scientific models are in principle useful for economic policy design.
The Helsinki group focuses on (A) welfare economics and the neural basis of utility and (B) addiction policy and the neuroscience of addiction. One of the central questions for these case studies is whether neuroscience can provide evidence of decision-making mechanisms relevant for nudge policies, and what the best way is to integrate neuroscientific theories of decision mechanisms into models of social mechanisms so that neuroeconomics can fulfil these conditions. The hypothesis defended is that neuroeconomic evidence is a poor guide to policy as long as the neuroscientific models of decision-making are not embedded in a broader framework of social mechanisms, and that this embedding is best done according to the mechanistic blueprint for integration. The subproject also touches upon normative questions targeting the potential friction between the conception of agency entailed by the prevalent neuroscientific theories of addiction line up with a normatively salient conception of autonomy relevant for the evaluation of (possibly coercive) treatments.
Picking up on the results of the first two sub-projects, the research team in Louvain-la-Neuve investigates the compatibility between the multi-level structure of cross-disciplinary explanations presented in the case studies and free will. This research will conduct to a concept of free will that includes determinations without implying a complete deterministic world. In a second stage, the consequences of this concept in economic models will be envisaged, considering specifically determinations analysed in subprojects 1 and 2: empathy and herding phenomena, emotions, greed and addiction, social mechanisms, relevant conceptions of wellbeing, and autonomy.