Having fun with brains

fMRIThe July 2007 issue of Scientific American has an article by Michael Shermer of Skeptic.com, its title “The Prospects for Homo Economicus.” The article is a short indictment on the rational economic man, stating that “thousands of experiments in behavioral economics since [Kahneman and Tversky founded the field in 1979] have demonstrated that most of us are highly risk averse.” The curious bit about the article is not the introductory tribute to the Nobel economics, but what follows.

Shermer visited UCLA and got into a fMRI scanner to be subject of an experiment by Russ Poldrack and Craig R. Fox. Jason Zweig, journalist for Money magazine and author of Your Money & Your Brain (in that order), also got into a scanner numerous times as way of investigative journalism.

Because I doubt neuroscientists are keen to study journalists as ideal subjects (college students are cheaper and have model brains), my guess is that journalists are asking to be stuck in. Being “the body” (“the brain”) surely enhances journalists enthusiasm for the field of neuroeconomics. There is actually a testable hypothesis here, lets look at their dopamine levels.

Besides, one might dispense with elaborate, cognitive explanations. Neuroeconomics is sexy science journalism because it is about looking at thought decision, peeling off bodily veils, surely this of itself newsworthy.


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