Show Reference: "A Neuroeconomics Approach to Inferring Utility Functions in Sensorimotor Control"

A neuroeconomics approach to inferring utility functions in sensorimotor control. PLoS biology, Vol. 2, No. 10. (October 2004), doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020330 by Konrad P. K├Ârding, Izumi Fukunaga, Ian S. Howard, James N. Ingram, Daniel M. Wolpert
    abstract = {Making choices is a fundamental aspect of human life. For over a century experimental economists have characterized the decisions people make based on the concept of a utility function. This function increases with increasing desirability of the outcome, and people are assumed to make decisions so as to maximize utility. When utility depends on several variables, indifference curves arise that represent outcomes with identical utility that are therefore equally desirable. Whereas in economics utility is studied in terms of goods and services, the sensorimotor system may also have utility functions defining the desirability of various outcomes. Here, we investigate the indifference curves when subjects experience forces of varying magnitude and duration. Using a two-alternative forced-choice paradigm, in which subjects chose between different magnitude-duration profiles, we inferred the indifference curves and the utility function. Such a utility function defines, for example, whether subjects prefer to lift a 4-kg weight for 30 s or a 1-kg weight for a minute. The measured utility function depends nonlinearly on the force magnitude and duration and was remarkably conserved across subjects. This suggests that the utility function, a central concept in economics, may be applicable to the study of sensorimotor control.},
    address = {Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, United Kingdom.},
    author = {K\"{o}rding, Konrad P. and Fukunaga, Izumi and Howard, Ian S. and Ingram, James N. and Wolpert, Daniel M.},
    doi = {10.1371/journal.pbio.0020330},
    issn = {1545-7885},
    journal = {PLoS biology},
    keywords = {biology, control, motor, utility},
    month = oct,
    number = {10},
    pmid = {15383835},
    posted-at = {2013-03-05 08:44:32},
    priority = {2},
    title = {A neuroeconomics approach to inferring utility functions in sensorimotor control.},
    url = {},
    volume = {2},
    year = {2004}

See the CiteULike entry for more info, PDF links, BibTex etc.

Utility functions are used in economics to explain people's decisions. They can also be used to examine non-economic decisions, like decisions in sensorimotor control.

Koerding et al. show how a utility function can be inferred from subjects' decisions in a two-alternative-forced-choice task.