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IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng. 2008 Dec;16(6):557-71. doi: 10.1109/TNSRE.2008.2009960.

The coordination dynamics of economic decision making: a multilevel approach to social neuroeconomics.

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  • 1Human Neurobiology Laboratory, Aix-Marseille University and CNRS, F-13331 Marseille, France.


The basic reciprocity between individual parts and collective organization constitutes a key scientific question spanning the biological and social sciences. Such reciprocity is accompanied by the absence of direct linkages between levels of description giving rise to what is often referred to as the aggregation or nonequivalence problem between levels of analysis. This issue is encountered both in neuroscience and economics. So far, in spite of being identified and extensively discussed in various (other) scientific fields, the problem of understanding the nature of the interactions and coordination dynamics between individual (neuron approximately agent) and collective (neural networks approximately population of humans) behaviors has received little, if any attention in the growing field of neuroeconomics. The present contribution focuses on bringing a theoretical perspective to the interpretation of experiments recently published in this field and addressing how the concepts and methods of coordination dynamics may impact future research. First, we very briefly discuss the links between biology and economics. Second, we address the nonequivalence problem between different levels of analysis and the concept of reciprocal causality. Third, neuroeconomics studies that investigate the neural underpinnings of social decision making in the context of two economic games (trust and ultimatum) are reviewed to highlight issues that arise when experimental results exist at multiple scales of observation and description. Finally, in the last two sections, we discuss how coordination dynamics might provide novel routes to studying and modelling the relation between brain activity and decision making.

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