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Essays on Behavioral and Neuro-economics


Bushong, Benjamin L. (2013) Essays on Behavioral and Neuro-economics. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/3EP1-3505.


This thesis examines foundational questions in behavioral economics—also called psychology and economics—and the neural foundations of varied sources of utility. We have three primary aims: First, to provide the field of behavioral economics with psychological theories of behavior that are derived from neuroscience and to use those theories to identify novel evidence for behavioral biases. Second, we provide neural and micro foundations of behavioral preferences that give rise to well-documented empirical phenomena in behavioral economics. Finally, we show how a deep understanding of the neural foundations of these behavioral preferences can feed back into our theories of social preferences and reference-dependent utility.

The first chapter focuses on classical conditioning and its application in identifying the psychological underpinnings of a pricing phenomenon. We return to classical conditioning again in the third chapter where we use fMRI to identify varied sources of utility—here, reference dependent versus direct utility—and cross-validate our interpretation with a conditioning experiment. The second chapter engages social preferences and, more broadly, causative utility (wherein the decision-maker derives utility from making or avoiding particular choices).

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Economics, Neuroeconomics, Behavioral Economics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Social Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Rangel, Antonio
Thesis Committee:
  • Rangel, Antonio (chair)
  • Rabin, Matthew
  • Camerer, Colin F.
  • Bossaerts, Peter L.
Defense Date:22 April 2013
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05022013-103938432
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
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Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7654
Deposited By: Benjamin Bushong
Deposited On:07 May 2013 21:47
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:00

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