How we choose
A new branch of brain science tries to understand human decision-making, but also may have the power to influence our actions
By Carolyn Y. Johnson
January 18, 2005
Human life is a string of seemingly straightforward choices -- getting dressed, picking up a newspaper, and beginning to read this article -- that are surprisingly hard to predict. What sweater will people pull on, which newspaper will they choose, and what will they read first?
As advertisers, financial analysts, and scientists have long known, it's hard to say. Human inconsistency rules.
Now, a budding field called "neuroeconomics" seeks to explain exactly how people make up their minds by using the latest imaging technologies to examine the grayish lump of brain tissue where each decision begins. The researchers, migrs [sic] from fields like psychology, neuroscience, and economics, hope to build a theory of human behavior that starts at the level of single nerve cells but can describe the choices individuals make, and even how markets work.
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