The Latest Frontier
Bauer Hosts 11th Annual Interdisciplinary Symposium on Decision Neuroscience
World-renowned researchers, industry practitioners and interested students were among the 550 participants who attended the 11th Annual Interdisciplinary Symposium on Decision Neuroscience (ISDN), a virtual conference organized by Bauer College in 2021.
ISDN attracts people from academia, marketing executives from multi-national brands and representatives of the neuroscience industry. The fact that this event is virtual allows more people to participate from their own home and learn some of the latest findings from scientists on how neuroscience could transform business operations and functions. It’s a phenomenal opportunity.”
Angelika Dimoka, professor of Decision & Information Sciences at Bauer College, founded the conference and led a committee of top neuroscience researchers in organizing the ISDN conference.
“ISDN attracts people from academia, marketing executives from multi-national brands and representatives of the neuroscience industry,” Dimoka said. “The fact that this event is virtual allows more people to participate from their own home and learn some of the latest findings from scientists on how neuroscience could transform business operations and functions. It’s a phenomenal opportunity.”
She also led a panel discussion featuring some of the field’s best-known pioneers and practitioners:
- Colin F. Camerer, professor of Behavioral Economics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
- Paul W. Glimcher, professor of Neuroscience & Physiology and Psychiatry at New York University
- Michael Platt, professor of Marketing, Psychology and Neuroscience at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
- Antonio Rangel, professor of Neuroscience, Behavioral Biology, and Economics at Caltech
Innovators in a field many consider the latest frontier of business decision-making, the researchers use physiological and neurological measures to understand, anticipate and measure human behavior and emotion, in applications as diverse as health care, marketing and economics.
Computational psychiatry, in which brain imagery and data analysis combine to shed new light on underlying factors of mental illnesses, is one of the latest breakthrough areas of the field.
Wearable biometric technology is also advancing quickly, said Platt, a professor of psychology, neuroscience and marketing at Wharton, who was one of the first neuroscientists to join faculty in a business school.
“We are more and more liberating neuroscience in general, from the confines of the laboratory or clinic,” Platt said. “The goal is understanding what’s going on in our heads when we’re out in the world making real-world decisions. It’s super challenging, but it’s where the latest tools of technology come in.” The appeal of neuroscience research in the private sector, especially high performing organizations looking for competitive advantage, is strong, with Platt currently partnering with professional sports organizations and the Department of Defense.
“It’s a huge open area,” he said. “That appetite is out there, how do we crack the code and identify hidden talent? It’s especially important now in terms of diversity and inclusion, especially as jobs are changing.”
Using neuroscience to gauge memory and emotion, Phelps’ focus at Harvard, is also still a relatively new and promising area.
“I’m optimistic by the breadth of the people coming into research from more fields, from more life experiences, with more unique approaches. As we can expand that, we’ll get better science,” Phelps said.
Camerer, an economist in the Humanities and Social Sciences department at Caltech, and Glimcher, one of Dimoka’s early neuroscience teachers, said traditional economists have not embraced neuroscience to the degree they expected.
Glimcher noted the need for more extensive multidisciplinary work in the field. “I think we need to see more economists readying psychology papers and more psychologists reading economics papers,” he said. “But meetings like this make a lot of headway in bringing that about.”
Dimoka’s own research focuses on using neurophysiological tools to improve and understand the development and impact of information and communication technologies. A study she and other researchers developed commissioned by the U.S. Post Office, Office of Inspector General was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Marketing Research (JMR). In it, subjects viewed ads with either digital or printed media, while researchers used eye tracking, biometric measurements and an fMRI machine, along with traditional questionnaires, to gauge how well subjects absorb and retain the information.
“What we found is that people who receive printed information remember that information much better and for much longer, than when they receive it in a digital format such as an email,” she said.
Uncovering the underlying neural mechanisms that drive such findings is at the heart of this and much of the latest decision neuroscience, said Dimoka, who has also been part of efforts to create ethical guidelines for such research. “We want to ensure that whatever tool is used is to advance knowledge, to help and improve policy-making and human welfare,” she said.
Work is currently underway for the 2022 Interdisciplinary Symposium on Decision Neuroscience, which will be held this June.