Research Topic

Behavioral and neuroscientific analysis of economic decision making in animals

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The experimental analysis of animal behavior has a rich tradition in psychology, behavioral ecology and many other scientific branches dedicated to the study of decision making. However, it has never enjoyed a similar popularity in economics. This has recently changed with the dawn of neuroeconomics – a ...

The experimental analysis of animal behavior has a rich tradition in psychology, behavioral ecology and many other scientific branches dedicated to the study of decision making. However, it has never enjoyed a similar popularity in economics. This has recently changed with the dawn of neuroeconomics – a discipline combining the analytic and experimental tools of psychology and economics with the technologies available in neuroscience to unravel the neurobiological mechanisms underlying economic behavior. Since many of the sophisticated neuroscientific techniques can only be used on animals, neuroeconomists have come up with a large and ever-growing repertoire of animal models to probe economic decision making. Besides the value of using animals as model systems to emulate human economic behavior, the discipline of animal economic decision making exists in its very own right: an abundance of animal species at various evolutionary stages show behavior that complies with many of the predictions of economic theory, whilst, at the same time demonstrating violations of optimal choice models that are reminiscent of similar anomalies found in human behavior. Hence, the analysis of animal choice does not only offer insights into the evolutionary origins of economic decision making, it also testifies that the analysis of animal behavior is a convenient, economical and sound way to test competing economic decision models in optimally controlled experimental environments, to probe their neural implementation and to yield common denominators in choice behavior. In short, economic theory provides more than just an alternative language to describe animal psychology: its combination with biology, psychology and neuroscience gives way to synergy effects that open up new venues for studying economic choice. In this Research Topic, we would like to gather the latest results from this cross-disciplinary topic, address the overlap and discrepancies in (the neurobiology of) economic decision making found between species and identify the challenges that lie ahead in translating results from species to species, and ultimately to humans. The exclusive focus on non-human animals makes this Research Topic unique and distinct from previous Research Topics which covered a broader range of matters and subjects in the neurobiological analysis of decision making.


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