CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
"Firms, governments, and scientists are constantly striving to figure out what goods and services people want most and quantify their worth. The main technique used to do this in economics is to statistically analyze data on what people have bought before, in order to guess how purchases might change if people have more to spend, if prices rise or fall, or if similar products are introduced. However, this method is of limited use in forecasting the value of brand new products, and goods tha
t are not traded in markets (particularly public goods which benefit everyone, such as clean air.) When people are choosing, a complex cognitive and biological process underlies those choices. The proposed research uses empirical tools from cognitive neuroscience to measure aspects of these processes when experimental subjects make actual choices of consumer goods. Measures will include brain imaging, eyetracking of visual attention, and speed of responses. The goal is to use these measures t
o infer what people value, in order to understand the neural foundation of choice and to predict actual choices more accurately than other measures can."