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Concept: Microeconomics


Dogs are hypersocial with humans, and their integration into human social ecology makes dogs a unique model for studying cross-species social bonding. However, the proximal neural mechanisms driving dog-human social interaction are unknown. We used fMRI in 15 awake dogs to probe the neural basis for their preferences for social interaction and food reward. In a first experiment, we used the ventral caudate as a measure of intrinsic reward value and compared activation to conditioned stimuli that predicted food, praise, or nothing. Relative to the control stimulus, the caudate was significantly more active to the reward-predicting stimuli and showed roughly equal or greater activation to praise versus food in 13 of 15 dogs. To confirm that these differences were driven by the intrinsic value of social praise, we performed a second imaging experiment in which the praise was withheld on a subset of trials. The difference in caudate activation to the receipt of praise, relative to its withholding, was strongly correlated with the differential activation to the conditioned stimuli in the first experiment. In a third experiment, we performed an out-of-scanner choice task in which the dog repeatedly selected food or owner in a Y-maze. The relative caudate activation to food- and praise-predicting stimuli in Experiment 1 was a strong predictor of each dog’s sequence of choices in the Y-maze. Analogous to similar neuroimaging studies of individual differences in human social reward, our findings demonstrate a neural mechanism for preference in domestic dogs that is stable within, but variable between, individuals. Moreover, the individual differences in the caudate responses indicate the potentially higher value of social than food reward for some dogs and may help to explain the apparent efficacy of social interaction in dog training.

Concepts: Predation, Sociology, Motivation, Classical conditioning, Choice, Dog, Dog health, Microeconomics


Despite evidence that connecting people to relevant wellbeing-related resources brings therapeutic benefit, there is limited understanding, in the context of mental health recovery, of the potential value and contribution of pet ownership to personal support networks for self-management. This study aimed to explore the role of pets in the support and management activities in the personal networks of people with long-term mental health problems.

Concepts: Therapeutic effect, Positron emission tomography, Mental disorder, Recovery model, Pet, Microeconomics


The motivational incentive of reward-related stimuli can become so salient that it drives behavior at the cost of other needs. Here we show that response inhibition applied during a Go/No-go task not only impacts hedonic evaluations but also reduces the behavioral incentive of motivationally relevant stimuli. We first examined the impact of response inhibition on the hedonic value of sex stimuli associated with strong behavioral-approach responses (Experiment 1). Sexually appealing and non-appealing images were both rated as less attractive when previously encountered as No-go (inhibited) than as Go (non-inhibited) items. We then discovered that inhibition reduces the motivational incentive of sexual appealing stimuli (Experiment 2). Prior Go/No-go status affected the number of key-presses by heterosexual males to view erotic-female (sexually appealing) but not erotic-male or scrambled-control (non-appealing) images. These findings may provide a foundation for developing inhibition-based interventions to reduce the hedonic value and motivational incentive of stimuli associated with disorders of self-control.

Concepts: Psychology, Sexual intercourse, Behavior, Human sexual behavior, Motivation, Human behavior, Sexuality, Microeconomics


Coastal hypoxia (dissolved oxygen ≤ 2 mg/L) is a growing problem worldwide that threatens marine ecosystem services, but little is known about economic effects on fisheries. Here, we provide evidence that hypoxia causes economic impacts on a major fishery. Ecological studies of hypoxia and marine fauna suggest multiple mechanisms through which hypoxia can skew a population’s size distribution toward smaller individuals. These mechanisms produce sharp predictions about changes in seafood markets. Hypoxia is hypothesized to decrease the quantity of large shrimp relative to small shrimp and increase the price of large shrimp relative to small shrimp. We test these hypotheses using time series of size-based prices. Naive quantity-based models using treatment/control comparisons in hypoxic and nonhypoxic areas produce null results, but we find strong evidence of the hypothesized effects in the relative prices: Hypoxia increases the relative price of large shrimp compared with small shrimp. The effects of fuel prices provide supporting evidence. Empirical models of fishing effort and bioeconomic simulations explain why quantifying effects of hypoxia on fisheries using quantity data has been inconclusive. Specifically, spatial-dynamic feedbacks across the natural system (the fish stock) and human system (the mobile fishing fleet) confound “treated” and “control” areas. Consequently, analyses of price data, which rely on a market counterfactual, are able to reveal effects of the ecological disturbance that are obscured in quantity data. Our results are an important step toward quantifying the economic value of reduced upstream nutrient loading in the Mississippi Basin and are broadly applicable to other coupled human-natural systems.

Concepts: Scientific method, Value, Price, Null hypothesis, Overfishing, Shrimp, Microeconomics, Relative price


Uncertainty remains about whether personal financial incentives could achieve sustained changes in health-related behaviors that would reduce the fast-growing global non-communicable disease burden. This review aims to estimate whether: i. financial incentives achieve sustained changes in smoking, eating, alcohol consumption and physical activity; ii. effectiveness is modified by (a) the target behavior, (b) incentive value and attainment certainty, © recipients' deprivation level.

Concepts: Psychology, Alcohol, The Target, Behavior, Motivation, Incentive, Behavioural sciences, Microeconomics


Water allocation can be undertaken through administered systems (AS), market-based systems (MS), or a combination of the two. The debate on the performance of the two systems has lasted for decades but still calls for attention in both research and practice. This paper compares water users' behavior under AS and MS through a consistent agent-based modeling framework for water allocation analysis that incorporates variables particular to both MS (e.g., water trade and trading prices) and AS (water use violations and penalties/subsidies). Analogous to the economic theory of water markets under MS, the theory of rational violation justifies the exchange of entitled water under AS through the use of cross-subsidies. Under water stress conditions, a unique water allocation equilibrium can be achieved by following a simple bargaining rule that does not depend upon initial market prices under MS, or initial economic incentives under AS. The modeling analysis shows that the behavior of water users (agents) depends on transaction, or administrative, costs, as well as their autonomy. Reducing transaction costs under MS or administrative costs under AS will mitigate the effect that equity constraints (originating with primary water allocation) have on the system’s total net economic benefits. Moreover, hydrologic uncertainty is shown to increase market prices under MS and penalties/subsidies under AS and, in most cases, also increases transaction, or administrative, costs.

Concepts: Costs, Economics, Cost, Trade, Microeconomics, Market, Transaction cost, Theory of the firm


We investigated suboptimal choice between different work requirements in pigeons (Columba livia), namely the sunk cost effect, an irrational tendency to persist with an initial investment, despite the availability of a better option. Pigeons chose between two keys, one with a fixed work requirement to food of 20 pecks (left key), and the other with a work requirement to food which varied across conditions (center key). On some trials within each session, such choices were preceded by an investment of 35 pecks on the center key, whereas on others they were not. On choice trials preceded by the investment, the pigeons tended to stay and complete the schedule associated with the center key, even when the number of pecks to obtain reward was greater than for the concurrently available left key. This result indicates that pigeons, like humans, commit the sunk cost effect. With higher work requirements, this preference was extended to trials where there was no initial investment, so an overall preference for the key associated with more work was evident, consistent with the work ethic effect. We conclude that a more general work ethic effect is amplified by the effect of the prior investment, that is, the sunk cost effect.

Concepts: Costs, Choice, Preference, Microeconomics, Columbidae, Rock Pigeon, Sunk costs, Psychology of previous investment


Despite the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms are reluctant to develop novel antibiotics because of a host of market failures. This problem is complicated by public health goals that demand antibiotic conservation and equitable patient access. Thus, an innovative incentive strategy is needed to encourage sustainable investment in antibiotics. This systematic review consolidates, classifies and critically assesses a total of 47 proposed incentives. Given the large number of possible strategies, a decision framework is presented to assist with the selection of incentives. This framework focuses on addressing market failures that result in limited investment, public health priorities regarding antibiotic stewardship and patient access, and implementation constraints and operational realities. The flexible nature of this framework allows policy makers to tailor an antibiotic incentive package that suits a country’s health system structure and needs.The Journal of Antibiotics advance online publication, 14 October 2015; doi:10.1038/ja.2015.98.

Concepts: Medicine, Public health, Bacteria, Antibiotic resistance, Policy, Microorganism, Penicillin, Microeconomics


Health care organizations embracing new payment models may find that applying behavioral economics can boost the effect of new incentives. By creating more favorable decision-making environments, we can take advantage of cognitive biases to encourage high-value care.

Concepts: Health care, Health economics, Medicine, Critical thinking, Cognition, Cognitive bias, Microeconomics, Daniel Kahneman


Nanomedicine will play an increasing role in prevention and treatment across the entire healthcare spectrum. However, their precise market size, economic value and areas of application remain unclear. This opacity, including the question of what constitutes nanomedicine matters, especially when considered alongside the key regulatory questions and concerns. This article begins by placing these key questions into context in relation to the current scientific state of the art, focusing particular attention on the human health and safety context. In exploring these central questions surrounding the regulation of nanomedicine, this perspective also explores existing and suggested frameworks that aim to deal with emerging technologies more generally. It then outlines priority areas for action and general conclusions specific to nanomedicine.

Concepts: Health care, Public health, Health, Human, Regulation, State, Microeconomics, Intergang