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Wanting, Liking, and Learning: Neuroscience and Paternalism

Camerer, Colin F. (2006) Wanting, Liking, and Learning: Neuroscience and Paternalism. University of Chicago Law Review, 73 (1). pp. 87-110. ISSN 0041-9494.

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A large number of young children die every year from ingesting poisons by accident. Revealed-preference theory, the foundation of microeconomics, has only two concepts to explain these accidents: beliefs and preferences (that is, utilities revealed by choices). In the beliefpreference language, all we can say is that a child who died of accidental poisoning either believed the poison was safe, and made a mistake, or that the child preferred death to life, and committed suicide. While economic theory may be comfortable calling these accidents only mistakes or expressions of preference, I am not. My goal in this Essay is to acquaint the legal audience with ideas emerging in neuroscience that could potentially be a richer language for talking about cases like accidental child poisoning and, more broadly, about welfare and paternalism in some limited cases. Further development of the framework could lead to a broader view with wider applicability. The idea is that three separable neural systems are relevant for choice and welfare: a hedonic “liking” system (welfare), a “wanting” system that guides choice, and a learning system that, ideally, links information stored in the other systems so that people choose to learn what they truly like. Other multiple-process neuroeconomic accounts use different components but have similar implications.

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Camerer, Colin F.0000-0003-4049-1871
Additional Information:© 2006 University of Chicago Press. Thanks to conference participants, to Meghana Bhatt, Ming Hsu, and Ian Krajbich for research assistance, and to Alice Lin for a presentation on the Berridge work.
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Official Citation:Wanting, Liking, and Learning: Neuroscience and Paternalism Colin F. Camerer The University of Chicago Law Review Vol. 73, No. 1, Symposium: Homo Economicus, Homo Myopicus, and the Law and Economics of Consumer Choice (Winter, 2006), pp. 87-110 Published by: The University of Chicago Law Review Stable URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:21845
Deposited On:24 Jan 2011 22:15
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 02:30

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