Keep half of the $20 for sure
Flip a coin: heads you keep all $20; tails you lose all $20
In such a scenario, most participants choose 1, preferring a sure win over the gamble.
Now imagine this choice, again starting with $20 in house money:
Lose half of the $20 for sure
Flip a coin: heads you keep all $20; tails you lose all $20
In this scenario, most participants prefer the gamble over a sure loss.
If you were paying close attention, you’ll note that both examples are actually numerically identical, keeping half of $20 is the same as losing half of $20, but changing whether the sure option is framed as a gain or a loss results in different decisions to play it safe or take a risk. This phenomenon is known as the Framing Effect. The behavior that it elicits is weird, or as psychologists and economists would say, “irrational”, so we think it’s worth investigating!In a study published March 29 in the Journal of Neuroscience, my lab used brain imaging data to test two competing theories for what causes the Framing Effect.
One theory is that framing is caused by emotion, perhaps because the prospect of accepting a guaranteed win feels good while accepting a guaranteed loss feels scary or bad.
Another theory is that the Framing Effect results from a decision-making shortcut. It may be that a strategy of accepting sure gains and avoiding sure losses tends to work well, and adopting this blanket strategy saves us from having to spend time and mental effort fully reasoning through every single decision and all of its possibilities.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we measured brain activity in 143 participants as they each made over a hundred choices between various gambles and sure gains or sure losses. Then we compared our participants’ choice-related brain activity to brain activity maps drawn from Neurosynth, an analysis tool that combines data from over 8,000 published fMRI studies to generate neural maps representing brain activity associated with different terms, just as “emotions,” “resting,” or “working.”
As a group, when our participants made choices consistent with the Framing Effect, their average brain activity was most similar to the brain maps representing mental disengagement (i.e. “resting” or “default”).
When they made choices inconsistent with the Framing Effect, their average brain activity was most similar to the brain maps representing mental engagement (i.e. “working” or task”). These results supported the theory that the Framing Effect results from a lack of mental effort, or using a decision-making shortcut, and that spending more mental effort can counteract the Framing Effect.
Then we tested whether we could use individual participants’ brain activity to predict participants’ choices on each trial. We found that the degree to which each trial’s brain activity resembled the brain maps associated with mental disengagement predicted whether that trial’s choice would be consistent with the Framing Effect. The degree to which each trial’s brain activity resembled brain maps associated with emotion, however, was not predictive of choices.
Our findings support the theory that the biased decision-making seen in the Framing Effect is due to a lack of mental effort rather than due to emotions.
This suggests potential strategies for prompting people to make better decisions.
Instead of trying to appeal to people’s emotions, likely a difficult task requiring tailoring to different individuals, we would be better off taking the easier and more generalizable approach of making good decisions quick and easy for everyone to make.
How hibernating animals are helping doctors treat diabetes and Alzheimer’s
One such brain pathway helps to activate hibernation in ground squirrels when a chemical called 6N-cyclohexyladenosine (CHA) attaches to a cell surface protein called the A1 adenosine receptor (A1AR). When the action of CHA on these receptors is blocked in the squirrels, Drew’s team in Fairbanks has shown that hibernation is prevented. They also have shown that giving CHA to non-hibernators, such as rats, makes them appear to hibernate too, provided they are put in a cold environment. “This tells us that CHA might have a potential role in therapeutic hypothermia,” suggests Drew, but there’s also another factor. Natural hibernators ‘get sick’ as they enter hibernation, and then ‘cure’ themselves when they awaken. This could have profound implications for how we assess illness and the types of treatments mounted against it.
…But perhaps, the greatest beneficiaries of hibernation research will be those suffering from degenerative conditions in the brain. Synapses are connections between nerve cells, akin to the electronic connections in a computer. Learning and creation of memory are associated with formation of new synapses in the brain. In dementia, especially in people with Alzheimer’s disease, recent memories deteriorate along with the ability to form new ones. This happens as synapses disappear. During hibernation, connections between neurons in the brain deteriorate, just as they do in Alzheimer’s, but what happens as the animals start waking up? You guessed it; synapses are restored. In fact, on revival, hibernators go through a so-called hypersynaptic state, characterised by an overabundance of connections. Subsequently, the brain settles down to its pre-hibernation connections. This means hibernators retain synapse information and use the information to restore earlier patterns. In a very real sense, it’s like the software that restores your computer memory to what it was on a previous day. Considering what unlocking the secrets of hibernators might do for people suffering, not just from Alzheimer’s, but also from conditions affecting other organs with changes that mirror hibernation, research on hibernation stands to get a lot more clinical.
New Mechanism That Regulates Chronic Stress Response Identified
In addition to the classic stress response in our bodies – an acute reaction that gradually abates when the threat passes – our bodies appear to have a separate mechanism that deals only with chronic stress.
The research is in Nature Neuroscience. (full access paywall)
because pills do not alter the situation,being responded and reacting to
Negative Sounds Emphasized in Burned-Out Brains
Approximately every fourth working aged Finn experiences symptoms of burnout that include exhaustion, cynicism and reduced professional efficacy and often also difficulties in concentration and memory.
this explains why background and foreground sounds flipped…
Are You Listening? Your Pupils Indicate If You Are
A new Dartmouth study finds that listeners are most likely to tune in when a speaker delivers the most emotional peaks of his/her narrative, as revealed by synchronous pupil dilation patterns of speakers and listeners due to shared attention.
The research is in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. (full access paywall)