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Journal watch: Cambridge Journal of Economics, 35(2), March 2011

Mark D. White

There are some very interesting articles in the latest issue of the Cambridge Journal of Economics (35/2, March 2011), especially regarding the intersections of economics with psychology and neuroscience:

Sheila C. Dow, "Cognition, market sentiment and financial instability"

The purpose of this paper is to explore the role for psychology within an open-system structural theory of financial instability, and to consider the implications for policy. While behavioural finance has drawn on ideas from psychology in order to explain evidence of behaviour that deviates from the rationality axioms, it is argued that the way in which psychology is framed by this approach is unduly limiting. Minsky's structural theory of financial instability, with its Keynesian (and ultimately Humean) roots, incorporates psychology into the theoretical foundations. In particular, cognition and sentiment are shown to be interconnected rather than separable. It is concluded that the policy implications for addressing the current crisis, while apparently similar between these different approaches, are in fact very different. The underlying theory involves different methodology, and indeed different framing, from behavioural finance. The way in which the crisis is understood is therefore important for policy.

Nuno Martins, "Can neuroscience inform economics? Rationality, emotions and preference formation"

The interaction between neuroscience and economics has gained much prominence recently, leading to the emergence of the new and expanding field of neuroeconomics. I will argue that, although there is much insight to be gained from the interaction between neuroscience and economics, the implications of recent developments in neuroscience and neuroeconomics for the deductivist methodology of mainstream economics, and its emphasis on prediction of events, have not been sufficiently addressed. In fact, much research on neuroeconomics has contributed to the formulation of deductivist models aimed at the prediction of events, when the more fruitful use of neuroscience in economics consists rather in the utilisation of its insights for the development of an explanation of social behaviour that moves beyond the mainstream deductivist methodology. The somatic marker hypothesis, developed by Damasio and others working closely with him, will be suggested as an alternative framework for conceptualising the emergence of social behaviour from a neurobiological substrate.

Patrick Spread, "Situation as determinant of selection and valuation"



This article investigates the proposition that situation is the determinant of selection and valuation. It investigates the ways in which various types of situation dictate selections and valuations and contrasts this process with the marginal model of economic theory. Rational and behavioural approaches to theory are compared. It is suggested that situation-related selection provides a more realistic account of consumer selection than neoclassical theory. The ‘situations’ that govern choice are seen as established through a process of ‘support-bargaining’, whereby individuals adjust their behaviour and opinions to gain the support of those around them. This process forms also the abstract ‘situations’ embodied in theories about the nature of the world and society. The individualism of neoclassical theory is displaced in the process of support-bargaining. The idea of support-bargaining focuses attention on the dependence of neoclassical theory on support to offset its fundamental faults. It is suggested that it be replaced with the theory of support-bargaining and associated situation-related selection.

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