Neurobiological measurements of cardinal utility: Hedonimeters or learning algorithms?

Daniel John Zizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


A neurobiological argument has been used to defend the measurability and interpersonal comparability of cardinal utility. If true, a strong case could be made for the practical relevance of utility-based social welfare functions. In this paper I demonstrate that the current evidence does not corroborate the cardinal measurability and comparability of utility. Electrical stimulation of brain parts, or asymmetries in brain hemispherical activation, cannot be used to build a hedonimeter. The role of the neurotransmitter dopamine is that of a saliency detector or alternatively one validating adaptive learning models, but either way is not that of a general cardinal utility measure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-488
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Choice and Welfare
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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