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Economics Under My Skin: Introducing Physiological Observations in the Sciences of Decision-Making

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Abstract

Following the 'Decade of the Brain', increased intellectual exchanges have developed between neuroscience and the social sciences and humanities (SSH). This essay examines how these new contacts between SSH and neuroscience reshaped the practices of observation of social scientists. Focusing on economists and the newly emerged field of neuroeconomics, we point first to the novelty of this episode – experimentation in the lab was foreign to economists’s practices for most of the twentieth century. We then layout the frictions generated by these new practices, showing that new technologies and conventions of interpretation, such as pictorial forms of evidence, run against deep-seated conceptions of what an economist’s skills and standards of observation should consist of. The multiplicity of technologies of observation offered by neuroscience and the increasing number of actors (academic or not) claiming expertise in them are making even more complex the process of adoption of hybrid practices, and the creation of 'neuro-SSH'.

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