NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Neural Activity Reveals Preferences Without Choices

Alec Smith, B. Douglas Bernheim, Colin Camerer, Antonio Rangel

NBER Working Paper No. 19270
Issued in August 2013
NBER Program(s):   PE

We investigate the feasibility of inferring the choices people would make (if given the opportunity) based on their neural responses to the pertinent prospects when they are not engaged in actual decision making. The ability to make such inferences is of potential value when choice data are unavailable, or limited in ways that render standard methods of estimating choice mappings problematic. We formulate prediction models relating choices to “non-choice” neural responses and use them to predict out-of-sample choices for new items and for new groups of individuals. The predictions are sufficiently accurate to establish the feasibility of our approach.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19270

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