Research Topic

News from the Psychology, Neurobiology and Genetic Fields on Social and Economic Behavioral Studies

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This Research Topic is cross-listed in the Frontiers in Neuroscience section - Decision Neuroscience
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This Research Topic is cross-listed in the Frontiers in Neuroscience section - Decision Neuroscience

The 20th century began with the re-discovery of Mendel’s laws of heredity; the 21st century began with the Human Genome Project’s working draft of the human genome sequence. We are rapidly approaching a postgenomic era in which we will know the entire genome sequence and, most importantly, all the DNA variations in the genome sequence. These DNA polymorphisms are the source of hereditary influence and will revolutionize genetic research on individual differences (Robert Plomin). Psychometrics and behavioral genetic have already contributed a substantial number of collaborative studies that redefined psychological phenomena such as general intelligence, extra/introversion, or even cooperativeness in terms of phenotypes whose variable degree of heritability can be measured. The editors of the present volume are then open to methods and approaches from different disciplines, and will in particular look favorably to studies combining genetic and neurobiological data. Bottom-up (molecular biology) and top-down (behavioral genomics) approaches of analyzing gene behavior pathways inevitably reconcile in the brain.

How should we envision the characterization of economic behaviors in terms of genetic phenotypes? Are cooperativeness, trust, intertemporal decision-making behavior, or risk-aversion plausible candidates in that perspective? At more macroscopic scales, is it feasible to draw a correlation between long-term longitudinal characteristics such as economic success with 'good genes', as is fashionably done with physical health? Are there any genetically related human groups most favored in terms of their economic aptitudes? As modern economic environments (those in which monetary trade prevails) are too recent from a historical point of view to have co-evolved with anatomy of the human brain, questions with regard to our ability to have created and adapted to these environments are raised. In this context, epigenetic and exaptive hypotheses are topical in understanding the cultural emergence and endurance of economic institutions such as markets, labor divisions and trade. This Research Topic aims to publish studies that address these fundamental epistemological issues on the basis of sufficiently robust data.

In order to link genetic variations to social and economic behaviors, it is essential to elucidate the neural circuits and transmitters that control behaviors. For example, what are the neural circuits behind reactive model-free decisions and deliberative model-based decisions? How decision parameters like risk seeking, loss avoidance, delay discounting, and equity preference are regulated by different neurotransmitters? Integration of such understanding contributes to not only psychiatric applications but also designs of human friendly technologies and socio-economic policies.

This Research Topic is thus set to review the latest in the emerging fields of genoeconomics geno-neuroeconomics, and evolutionary neuro-social science.


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