Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Irrational decisions driven by emotions

07.08.2006
Irrational behaviour arises as a consequence of emotional reactions evoked when faced with difficult decisions, according to new research at UCL (University College London), funded by the Wellcome Trust. The UCL study suggests that rational behaviour may stem from an ability to override automatic emotional responses, rather than an absence of emotion per se.

It has long been assumed in classical theories of economics that people act entirely rationally when taking decisions. However, it has increasingly become recognized that humans often act irrationally, as a consequence of biasing influences. For example, people are strongly and consistently affected by the way in which a question is presented. An operation that has 40 per cent probability of success seems more appealing than one that has a 60 per cent chance of failure.

In the study, published in the journal Science, UCL researchers used a gambling experiment to establish the cognitive basis for rational decision-making. The goal of the task was to accumulate as much money as possible, with the incentive of being paid in real money in proportion to the money won during the experiment. Participants were given a starting amount of money (£50) at the beginning of each trial. They were then asked to choose between either a sure option or a gamble option (where they would have a certain chance of winning the entire amount, but also of losing it all). Subjects were presented with these choices under two different frames (i.e. scenarios), in which the sure option was worded either as the amount to be kept from the starting amount ("keep £20"), or the amount to be deducted ("lose £30"). The two options, although worded differently, would result in exactly the same outcome, i.e. that the participant would be left with £20.

The UCL study found that participants were more likely to gamble at the threat of losing £30 than the offer of keeping £20. On average, when presented with the "keep" option, participants chose to gamble 43 per cent of the time compared with 62 per cent for the "lose" option. Furthermore, there was a marked difference in behaviour between participants. Some people adopted a more rational approach and gambled more equally and consistently under both frames, while others showed a real aversion to risk in the "keep" frame while at the same time displaying high risk-seeking behaviour in the "lose" frame.

Brain imaging revealed that the amygdala, a region thought to control our emotions and mediate the 'fight or flight' reaction, underpinned this bias in the decision process. Moreover, the UCL study revealed that people with more rational behaviour had greater brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, a region known to be involved in higher-order executive processes, suggesting that their brains are better able to incorporate their emotions into a more balanced reasoning process.

Mr Benedetto de Martino, of the UCL Institute of Neurology, says: "It is well known that human choices are affected by the way in which a question is phrased. For example, saying an operation carries an 80 per cent survival rate may trigger a different response compared to saying that an operation has a 20 per cent chance of dying from it, even though they offer exactly the same degree of risk.

"Our study provides neurobiological evidence that an amygdala-based emotional system underpins this biasing of human decisions. Moreover, we found that people are rational, or irrational, to widely differing amounts. Interestingly, the amygdala was active across all participants, regardless of whether they behaved rationally or irrationally, suggesting that everyone experiences an emotional reaction when faced with such choices. However, we found that more rational individuals had greater activation in their orbitofrontal cortex (a region of prefrontal cortex) suggesting that rational individuals are able to better manage or perhaps override their emotional responses."

Jenny Gimpel | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>