In Cartesian thought there are two categories of behavior: simple and complex. In the first, a mechanical, motor or visceral response is produced, based on a sensory stimulus, also called “reflex”. Faced with this deterministic conception, in the second the relationship between the perceived sensation and the response behavior is mediated by stochastic processes, difficult to explain because they are chaotic and not very predictable. He called these Descartes “soul” and modern scientists “cognition.”
In the last century, advances in the evolution of scientific paradigms, from the Cartesian conception to the new theses of cognitive neuroscience, have occurred in fits and starts, as T. Kuhn would say. The accumulation of data and information from studies carried out with new neurophysiological measurement techniques is beginning to question traditional theoretical frameworks and define new conceptual approaches with which to explain complicated human behavior.
One of the most illustrative examples is the controversial discussion about the existence of free will in decision-making. On the one hand, B. Albania Phone Nu mber List Libet defended the hypothesis of neuronal determinism after carrying out, in the eighties, a series of experiments in which he analyzed the brain activity of a series of subjects while they made decisions that involved their motor system. In that study, he discovered that milliseconds before the participants were aware of the decision to move a limb, the action potential responsible for making that movement had already been triggered in their brains. It seems that the brain had already decided what to do before the subject knew what action to take. Free will could be questioned.
Instead, in similar experiments recently conducted by J.D. Haynes and his team, using more refined measurement techniques, have shown that subjects can change at the last moment of decision even though a preparatory action potential to perform a particular movement had previously been recorded in the brain. That is, the participant was able to consciously inhibit this movement. It could then be said that human volitional decisions are essentially less limited than previously thought, in Haynes’s words. Free will was being rehabilitated again.
This example illustrates how scientific advances illuminate new theories and extinguish given paradigms for a time. The same happens with traditional microeconomics when, following theoretical-mathematical models, it tries to explain consumer decision-making by relating people’s disposable income to their tastes (preferences, trends, motivations, etc.) to construct curves. demand for different products or services, in which to determine the equilibrium point between the budget restriction and the subjective rate by which a consumer is willing to renounce the consumption of a specific good and / or substitute it for another.
For a long time, microeconomics has posited about the processes by which people optimize their consumption without their epistemic models being debated. Simplifying and making a Cartesian comparison, the consumption behavior was reduced to a simple response, such as reflexes, parameterizable by means of mathematical equations. Or systematized without taking into account the execution of free will by individuals.
Instead, behavioral economics has relied on neuroscience to try to understand the workings of the complex system that relates cortical and limbic areas when we make a decision. The old confrontation between reason and emotion collapses before the discovery of the processes of information exchange between the cognitive and affective systems, in a recurring round trip whose result is decision-making.
Both D. Kahneman and his thesis on slow (rational) and fast (emotional) systems, as well as P. Glimcher and his proposal on evaluation and decision systems, come to the conclusion in different ways that they are not watertight systems but circuits in permanent feedback, from which learning and memorization also arise, and in which reward (and the corresponding gap between expected and achieved satisfaction) plays a crucial role.
As we can see, the simplification of the microeconomics of utility versus spending capacity functions to predict consumption is being completed with the contribution of neuroscience about how the subjective values of each individual are determined and how the exchange of values influences them. information to value actions (limbic system) and goods (prefrontal cortex). That is, how emotions and reason interact in a model that is always summative, not