A neuroeconomic theory of the decision process

John Dickhaut, Aldo Rustichini, Vernon Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


We develop a neuronal theory of the choice process (NTCP), which takes a subject from the moment in which two options are presented to the selection of one of the two. The theory is based on an optimal signal detection, which generalizes the signal detection theory by adding the choice of effort as optimal choice for a given informational value of the signal for every effort level and a cost of effort. NTCP predicts the choice made as a stochastic choice: That is, as a probability distribution over two options in a set, the level of effort provided, the error rate, and the time to respond. The theory provides a unified account of behavioral evidence (choices made, error rate, time to respond) as well as neural evidence (represented by the effort rate measured for example by the level of brain activation). The theory also provides a unified explanation of several facts discovered and interpreted in the last decades of experimental economic analysis of choices, which we review.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22145-22150
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 19 2009


  • Signal detection
  • Stochastic choice


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