Colin Camerer, the Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Finance and Economics at the California Institute of Technology, was a panelist at the inaugural University of Chicago Policy Forum, held April 25, 2019. The Forum was organized by The Macro Finance Research Program (MFR) and the Center for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD). During his visit to campus, Camerer met with HCEO to discuss his recent research on neuroeconomics.
"I’m a behavioral economist, which means I use data from adjacent social sciences about natural, biological limits on how much people can compute and figure out willpower and selfishness," Camerer says. "More recently, I’ve been interested in neuroeconomics, which is really just using neural evidence to think about economic decision-making."
In recent research, Camerer has looked at habit, which he notes is a subject of interest in many scientific fields. "There's a lot of practical interest of course in developing good habits like exercising more and restraining bad habits, like overeating and addiction," he says. "Our approach to habit uses a neuroscientific basis, which means what habit is for is to save time when the activities you’re choosing and you’ve been choosing repeatedly, are known to be reliably rewarding. So the mark of habit is not, 'Oh this is really great, I have to do it again.' But, 'I know exactly what I’m getting and I can kind of put my brain on autopilot.'
"There’s a chance that we’ll have almost a scientifically unified concept of habit from animal brains, human brains to things we can measure with sensors and apps and social media and so on."