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Séminaire - Sacha Bourgeois-GirondeNeurobiological substrates of monetary validity

Abstract :

This talk will draw on Tallon-Baudry, Meyniel and Bourgeois-Gironde 2011, PLoS One.

Money, when used as an incentive, activates the same neural circuits as rewards associated with physiological needs.
However, unlike physiological rewards, monetary stimuli are cultural artifacts: how are monetary stimuli identified in the first place? How and when does the brain identify a valid coin, i.e. a disc of metal that is, by social agreement, endowed with monetary properties? We took advantage of the changes in the Euro area in 2002 to compare neural responses to valid coins (Euros, Australian Dollars) with neural responses to invalid coins that have lost all monetary properties (French Francs, Finnish Marks). We show in magneto-encephalographic recordings, that the ventral visual pathway automatically distinguishes between valid and invalid coins, within only ~150 ms. This automatic categorization operates as well on coins subjects were familiar with as on unfamiliar coins. No difference between neural responses to scrambled controls could be detected. These results could suggest the existence of a generic, all-purpose neural representation of money that is independent of experience. This finding is reminiscent of a central assumption in economics, money fungibility, or the fact that a unit of money is substitutable to another. From a neural point of view, our findings may indicate that the ventral visual pathway, a system previously thought to analyze visual features such as shape or color and to be influenced by daily experience, could also able to use conceptual attributes such as monetary validity to categorize familiar as well as unfamiliar visual objects. The symbolic abilities of the posterior fusiform region suggested here could constitute an efficient neural substrate to deal with culturally defined symbols, independently of experience, which probably fostered money's cultural emergence and success.

 I will conclude by speculating on the use of this neural marker of the presence of money in the fusiform gyrus as a heuristics to test empirical/biological models of money-emergence and speculation such as Kiyotaki and Wright's (1989) and Banerjee and Maskin's (1996).

Sacha Bourgeois Gironde, à l'Institut  Jean Nicod

Sacha Bourgeois Gironde au LEMMA (Laboratoire d'Economie Mathématique et de Microéconomie Appliquée)

Selected publications

Bourgeois-Gironde, S. & Giraud, R. (2009). Framing-Effects as Violations of Extensionality. Theory and Decision 67, 41-63.

 Bourgeois-Gironde, S. (2010) Cultural cortical recycling and monetary economics, Human Evolution, 54, 221-243.

 Bourgeois-Gironde, S. (2010). Is Neuroeconomics doomed by the reverse inference fallacy? Mind and Society, 9(2), 32-56.

 Bourgeois-Gironde, S., Benita, R.,  Leiser, D. (2010). Human Foibles or Systemic Failures - Lay perceptions of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Journal of Socio-Economics, 39, 132-141.

 Bourgeois-Gironde, S. (2010). Regret and the rationality of choice. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B., 365, 249-258

 Tallon-Baudry C, Meyniel F, Bourgeois-Gironde S (2011) Fast and Automatic Activation of an Abstract Representation of Money in the Human Ventral Visual Pathway. PLoS ONE 6(11).

Bourgeois-Gironde, S. and Corcos, A. (2011) Discriminating strategic reciprocity and acquired trust in repeated trust-game, Economics Bulletin.

 Bourgeois-Gironde, S., Guille, M. (2011), Keynes' animal spirits vindicated: An analysis of recent empirical and neural data on money illusion. Journal of Post-Keynesian Economics 34, 331-352.

 Aharon I. et Bourgeois-Gironde, S. (2011) From Neuroeconomics to Genetics: The Intertemporal Choices Case as an Example in Richard P. Ebstein, Mikhail Monakhov, Poh San Lai, and Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory (eds) From DNA to Social Cognition, Nov. 2011, Wiley & Blackwell.

 Cova, F., Bertoux, M., Dubois, B.,  Bourgeois-Gironde, S. (2012) Judgments about moral responsibility and determinism in patients with behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia: Still compatibilists, Consciousness and Cognition, 21, 851-864.

Bourgeois-Gironde, S., (2012) Optimal short-sighted rules. Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience, topic: Decision-Making Experiments under a Philosophical Analysis: Human Choice as a Challenge for Neuroscience, 6, art. 129. 

 Craver CF, Cova F, Green L, Myerson J, Rosenbaum RS, Kwan D, Bourgeois-Gironde S. An Allais paradox without mental time travel. hippocampus. 2014 Jun 28. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22318. [Epub ahead of print]

Scientific focus :

L’axe principal de mes travaux actuels est l’investigation des bases biologiques des comportements économiques. L’idée centrale est celle d’un décalage (temporel ou fonctionnel) entre l’évolution des bases neurobiologiques qui permettent l’adaptation aux environnements économiques modernes et la nature et les sollicitations de ces environnements. L’étude de la rationalité ou de l’irrationalité qui a transformé la science économique depuis une trentaine d’années est située dans cette perspective d’investigation particulière.