“The Brain and the Social – Methods and Philosophy of Integrating Neuroscience and Economics”
Instead of the initially planned broader Final Symposium “When Policy Making Meets Neuroscience and Social Science”, the INSOSCI research team has decided to organize a focused book symposium on 12th-13th February 2019 at Witten/Herdecke University. Team members and external researchers will present and discuss their contributions to the book “The Brain and the Social – Methods and Philosophy of Integrating Neuroscience and Economics” edited by Jens Harbecke and Carsten Herrmann-Pillath.
The issues that the book will cover are in the track of recent debates about the “social brain” (see Alós Ferrer in JEL Vol. 56, 2018). The social brain debate highlights the complexity, malleability and multi-level structure of the brain and its embeddedness in external social processes and mechanisms. This issue is of central significance for advancing the possible integration of behavioural economics and neuroscience beyond the paradigm of neuroscientific reductionism which dominated the bulk of research inspired by brain scanning techniques. In the social brain paradigm, environmental structures, communication and language, behavioural norms and institutions become essential elements in interaction with neurophysiological mechanisms in generating behaviour. For example, as it is well established in the empirical literature, explanatorily important phenomena such as loss aversion are not hard-wired properties of the brain but emerge in the context of specific agent identities in certain social contexts. Nonetheless, the phenomenon is based on neuronal mechanism as proximate causes. Such a paradigmatic shift has important consequences not only for fundamental theory, but also for practices and policies, such as designing therapies for addiction or improving economic decisions in financial markets. The book intends to include these different facets of the topic.
The original motivation for the book is both philosophical and methodological. Nonetheless, the collection will be open to all relevant contributions from various fields. The overall philosophical orientation means that all contributors are offered space for reflecting on their work beyond the limitations of journal papers that often must focus on more narrow empirical work with data and specific models. Therefore, we encourage contributions that adopt such a reflective stance, without requiring them to refer to philosophy explicitly. We envisage that the book will be divided into 3 or 4 sections which mirror the various background and interests of our contributors. At a minimum, we distinguish between the two poles of rigorous philosophical and methodological analysis of cross-disciplinary integration on the one hand, and public policy implications on the other hand. We hope that all contributors will refer to the central issue of interaction between the levels of the neuronal and the social, and that they take the economic domain in the broadest sense as empirical reference point.
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