Best textbooks in neuroeconomics and decision-making

Neuroeconomics has moved into neuroscience and psychology at an amazing pace over the past decade. Economic theories used to be far removed from actual human behavior, leading to models of optimal choice that could not explain humans very well. Neuroeconomics attempts to change that by grounding economic theory in the reality of brain physiology. We have listed some of the most prominent textbooks on the topic by leaders in the field such as Glimcher, Camerer and Dolan. If you’re looking for more general textbooks on neuroscience, look here; if you want a bit more leisurely reading have a look at popular science books on decision-making.

1. Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain by Paul W. Glimcher

Written by four of the world’s authorities on neuroeconomics, this book is a must-have for any neuroscientist studying decision-making or neuroeconomics.

2. Behavioral Game Theory: Experiments in Strategic Interaction by Colin F. Camerer

Although neuroeconomics often deals with individual choice and optimization of behavior, this book by Camerer explores Game Theory, or how we manage to out-smart others in games of reward and punishment. Such games provide a fun and tantalizing insight into our social biases shaped by evolution. A great introduction, though a hard read at times, and an even better reference work for people in the field.

3. Neuroscience of Preference and Choice: Cognitive and Neural Mechanisms by Raymond J. Dolan

One of the most prominent neuroscientists in decision-making and emotions, Raymond J. Dolan brings together a range of excellent scientists to cover all aspects of decision-making, the instability of preferences, and the neuroscience that underlies it. Much more grounded in physiology than e.g. Kahneman’s Thinking, fast and slow, so if you prefer to learn something about the brain rather than just psychology, pick this up. And if you like this, Tali Sharot (co-editor on this book) published the excellent Optimism Bias.

4. Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis by Paul W. Glimcher

Economics has been criticized that their theories of optimal behavior and choice are too rational, and fail to cover many aspects of animal behavior that are clearly not rational (see Dolan’s book or this excellent piece by Dan Ariely). Here, Glimcher attempts to marry the reality of neuroscience with the theorems of neuroeconomics, exploring how economic theories might have physiological correlates in the brain. This is by no means light reading, but essential nonetheless if you’re fascinated by the recent developments in neuroeconomics that has taken neuroscience and psychology by storm.