In a 2012 essay, Birnberg and Ganguly asked, ‘Is neuroaccounting waiting in the wings?’ They describe how, before the turn of this century, economists began research collaborations with both psychologists and neuroscientists to understand economic decision-making on physical and neuronal levels, giving rise to a field called ‘neuroeconomics.’ The goal of these collaborations was, and still is, to use methodologies that capture physical responses to stimuli to provide new insights into the cognitive processes underlying individuals’ decisions and interactions with others and with organizations, markets, and societies.
Human neuroscience research examines how the nervous system is organized and how it produces perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors. The nervous system encompasses the brain, spinal cord, sensory organs, and networks of highly specialized neurons, or nerve cells. Collectively, these components transmit and receive electrical and chemical signals to control movements and involuntary processes such as heartbeat and breathing; process and interpret external stimuli captured by the eyes, ears, skin, nose and mouth; and coordinate higher-order cognitive processes like attention, learning, memory, motivation, self-regulation, problem-solving, and beliefs about self and others (Bloom, 2013; Hsiao et al., 2009; Kowler, 2009; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2018; Posner & Petersen, 1990; Purves et al., 2004, pp. 1–28; Society for Neuroscience, 2018, pp. 10–25, 32–43).
It’s insights about and technologies that capture these higher-order cognitive processes that can help accounting scholars more deeply understand how decision-makers physically and cognitively process and react to accounting information and controls. In a forthcoming paper in the European Accounting Review, we review accounting literature to map the development of the field of ‘neuroaccounting,’ in which accounting scholars, much like their counterparts in economics, incorporate neuroscience into their work.
Our systematic narrative review has four steps.
Overall, we observe that the literature is coalescing into a field of neuroaccounting in ways that mirror the pattern of development in neuroeconomics, indicating that neuroaccounting is indeed taking a place on the stage of behavioral accounting research. Based on our analyses, we offer suggestions for future research. Our review provides a framework for future research at the nexus of neuroscience and accounting that provides unique insights into the ‘black box’ of cognitive processing in accounting contexts.
A version of the manuscript is available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3748649.
Birnberg, J. G., & Ganguly, A. R. (2012). Is neuroaccounting waiting in the wings? An essay. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 37(1), 1–13.
Bloom, F. E. (2013). Chapter 1: Fundamentals of Neuroscience. In L. R Squire, D. Berg, F. E. Bloom, S. du Lac, A. Ghosh, & N. D. Spitzer (Eds.), Fundamental Neuroscience, Fourth Edition (pp. 3–13). Waltham, MA: Academic Press.
Demski, J. S., & Feltham, G. A. (1976). Cost Determination: A Conceptual Approach. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press.
Hsiao, S. S., Fitzgerald, P. J., Thakur, P. H., Denchev, P., & Yoshioka, T. (2009). Somatosensory receptive fields. In L. R. Squire (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Neuroscience (pp. 111–119). London, UK: Academic Press.
Kowler, E. (2009). Attention and eye movements. In L. R. Squire (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Neuroscience (pp. 605–616). London, UK: Academic Press.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2018). Neuroscience Fact Sheet. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/factsheets/neuro (last accessed November 18, 2020).
Posner, M. I., & Petersen, S. E. (1990). The attention system of the human brain. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 13(1), 25–42.
Purves, D., Augustine, G. J., Fitzpatrick, D., Hall, W. C., LaMantia, A., McNamara, J. O., & Williams, S. M. (2004). Neuroscience, Third Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.
Siddaway, A. P., Wood, A. M., & Hedges, L. V. (2019). How to do a systematic review: A best practice guide for conducting and reporting narrative reviews, meta-analyses, and meta-syntheses. Annual Review of Psychology, 70, 747–770.
Smith, V. L. (2009). Introduction: Experimental economics and neuroeconomics. In P. W. Glimcher, C. F. Camerer, E. Fehr, & R. A. Poldrack (Eds.), Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain (pp. 15–20). London, UK: Academic Press.
Society for Neuroscience. (2018). Brain Facts. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience.