Inside the Head of a Collector: Neuropsychological Forces at Play

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  • Introduces neuro- and behavioral economics for collectors and art professions to help them understand their own decision making

  • Brings a unique collector's perspective, providing insight for art dealers, collectors, and museum professionals. Includes artworks and objects that have never been published before

  • Chronicles the exhibit Elegance from the East: New Insights into Old Porcelain, which was one of the first museum exhibits to use a neuropsychological approach

  • Examines Order of Cincinnati fakes versus authentic articles, with photos to demonstrate

Collecting objects gives enormous pleasure to approximately one third of the population, providing such benefits as intellectual stimulation, the thrill of the chase, and leaving a legacy. On the other hand, the same pursuit can engender pain; for example, paying too much for an object, unknowingly buying a fake, or dealing with the frustrations of collection dispersal. Until recently, there was no objective way to enhance the positive (pleasure) aspects of collecting and minimize the negative (pain). Now, for the first time, scientific research in neuro- and behavioral economics gives us a way to turn this around.

Neuroeconomics is the study of the biological foundation of economic thought, while behavioral economics incorporates insights from psychology and other social sciences into the examination of monetary behavior. By using examples from these disciplines, Shirley M. Mueller, MD, relates her own experiences as a serious collector and as a neuroscientist to examine different behavioral traits which characterize collectors.

The contents of this book are cutting edge, unique and sure to get attention. Mueller breaks new ground in an area not previously explored. Her information is relevant not only for collectors, but also for colleges, and universities which teach collection management, plus museum staff who interact with collectors and dealers of objects desired by collectors. Heavily illustrated with ceramics from Mueller's collection and packed with useful information, this book will become a required vital resource.

This book will accompany a lecture in NYC, Autumn 2019; details in progress. Announcements will be made through various professional organizations, including the American Ceramic Circle, English Ceramic Circle, Northern Ceramic Society, Decorative Arts Trust, Attingham and The Royal Association of Friends of Asian Art in Holland.

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Collecting is intellectual stimulation, it’s social bonding, it’s organization,” says Dr. Shirley Mueller, a neuroscientist and collector whose new book “Inside the Head of a Collector: Neuropsychological Forces at Work” is scheduled for release in August.

Collecting is an ancient human impulse, one that often begins in childhood. And it delivers the straight dopamine: “People collect for one reason and that’s because it makes them feel good,” says Mueller. “When we’re anticipating getting a desired object, the pleasure centers of our brain light up — even more than they do once we have the object. Collectors get to do that over and over again.” Go ahead, take another hit off the eBay.


Collecting is a social network. A collection instantly gives you something to talk about, and once you dive into searching and researching to find more pieces, you’ll find yourself connecting with other collectors. “The sense of friendship and social bonding with other collectors is one of the main things that people value about collecting,” says Mueller.