Naomi  Sparks

Naomi Sparks

PhD Applied Cognitive Psychology
AREA OF RESEARCH: Neuroeconomics

What draws you to this area of research?

Psychology has traditionally been a descriptive science, interested solely in discovering and describing surprising findings about human behavior. What I am interested in is why humans behave in ways that are inconsistent with traditional economic theory, and studying this involves not only the detection of puzzling aspects of human behavior but also the deduction of likely reasons for these behaviors through the study of the brain. The Center for Neuroeconomics Studies allows me to collaborate with researchers in economics, psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy to investigate the neurological and biological factors that drive decision-making, trust, and pro-social behavior. This new area of research is very exciting and interdisciplinary-- it is safe to say that I will never be bored intellectually!

Would you like to collaborate?


Areas for collaboration (research studies, publishing, conference presentations, etc.)

Research studies, publications, conference presentations (particularly with economists, environmental scientists, neuroscientists).

Would you say your research is Transdisciplinary?


My research is in applied cognitive psychology but utilizes neuroscience and neuroendocrinological methods (i.e., we give subjects hormones and look for behavior changes), while studying economic decisions involving real money.  The nature of this research is absolutely transdisciplinary: involving psychology, neuroscience, and economics.  

I am also interested in studying decisions that involve making temporal tradeoffs.  More specifically, one's willingness to incur immediate costs for the sake of longer-term gains.  This has implications for environmental decisions (e.g., the decision to invest in solar panels) that involve future-oriented preferences.  My current work is studying the hormones involved in these temporal tradeoffs.


Hopefully the way my research is going will involve collaboration from psychology, neuroscience, economics, and environmental science.

Publications / Presentations


  • “A Behavioral Economics Approach to Additionality: Beyond Business as Usual” (with Dr. Dave Krantz at Columbia University)
  • “Advertising and Decision-Making” (with Pei-Ying Lin and Dr. Paul J. Zak at Claremont Graduate University)
  • "Oxytocin, Time Preference, and Generosity" (M.A. thesis, with Dr. Paul J. Zak  at Claremont Graduate University)


  • “A Behavioral Economics Approach to Additionality: Beyond Business as Usual” (August, 2009)
    Presented in Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) lab meeting.
    Columbia University
  • “Neuroeconomics” (April 16, 2009)
    Guest lecture presented in Mind, Brain and Behavior class of 200+ students.
    Columbia University

Future goals as a scholar

I would like to hold a dual appointments in a business school and psychology department at a research university, and have my own Neuroeconomics laboratory. I'm also interested in working as a consultant in "neuromarketing," and seeing how my research can inform business and policy decisions.

Must-read books or articles in your field

  • Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in the Economy by Paul J. Zak (my advisor)
  • Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely.
  • Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstei

For an overview on Neuroeconomics:

  • Neuroeconomics: How Neuroscience Can Inform Economics by Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein, and Drazen Prelec in the Journal of Economic Literature Vol. XLIII (March 2005), p. 9-64
  • Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain by Paul W. Glimcher, Colin F. Camerer, Ernst Fehr, & Russell A. Poldrack. 2009. Elsevier Academic Press.

Helpful resources at CGU

For interest in Neuroeconomics, visit the CNS website

Helpful resources outside of CGU (blogs, websites, social networking sites, etc. that connect with your areas of research)