A workshop on "Neuroeconomics and Endocrinological Economics," to be held Nov. 20 and 21 at UC Davis, will be the first to bring together experts in neuroscience, economics and hormone physiology in one event, according to organizers.
Neuroeconomics has emerged as a new field in recent years, as both economists and neuroscientists have used brain scanning technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how people make decisions.
"Economists and neuroscientists have been coming at similar problems but from different directions," said workshop organizer Burkhard Schipper, assistant professor of economics at UC Davis.
By having volunteers play simple games involving risk and reward while in a brain scanner, researchers have been able to see which areas of the brain are activated as people make economic decisions. However, economists have lacked a body of theory to connect what happens in the brain to wider economic theory, Schipper said. This new area -- neuroeconomic theory -- will be one of the topics of the conference, he said.
Another new area -- endocrinological economics -- studies how hormones such as testosterone and estradiol affect economic behavior. At the workshop, Coren Apicella, research fellow at Harvard University, will discuss how testosterone levels affect risk-taking tasks. Schipper will talk about his recent work on how the menstrual cycle influences risk-taking in an auction-bidding game.
Workshop participants will also address how genetics contribute to economic decision-making, including a presentation by graduate student David Cesarini, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on pension investments by identical and non-identical twins.
The workshop is supported by the UC Davis College of Letters and Science, the Department of Economics and the Institute of Governmental Affairs. It is co-sponsored by the Levine Family Foundation of Greenwich, Conn. The foundation, established by UC Davis alumnus Jay Levine and his wife Tammy, provides funds to support the mission of the Department of Economics, including visiting speakers and workshops.