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Science

Mind Scans to Map Decision Making Mechanics 218

Posted by michael
from the chocolate-strawberry-vanilla dept.
rrangel writes "Newsweek is running an article on the fMRI, which tracks brain function by measuring blood flow, and using it for watching the mechanics of economics and choice. Best quote on economic choice: '... there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.' H. Hefner has known that all along."
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Mind Scans to Map Decision Making Mechanics

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  • there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.

    Why can't wives understand that?

  • by mangu (126918) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:13AM (#9549661)
    '... there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.'


    We don't need that the female be in estrus.

    • > '... there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.'
      >
      > We don't need that the female be in estrus.

      And from the article:

      "there's no 'buy button' out there to be found. We're not going to subvert free will. This isn't about screwing the consumer."

      Suuuuuuuure. Then what are you showin' all that monkey pr0n?

    • by orthogonal (588627) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:20AM (#9550055) Journal
      We [humans] don't need that the female be in estrus.

      And with good reason: human females, almost uniquely among animals, conceal when they're fertile.

      In fact, they conceal it so well, the women themselves don't know when they are fertile. At least not consciously: human females do show preferences for different types of males depending on whether or not they're fertile. Fortunately or not, depending on whether you're looking to have offspring or just consequence-free sex, human females will tend to prefer the more rotund and nerdy Slashdot-type male when she's not fertile, and very masculine hunks when she is fertile.

      (Unlike fertility, there are somewhat obvious signs of how masculine a human male is: higher testosterone produces both dominant behavior and a thinner, more "cut" physical appearance, especially about the face. Female humans may not be able to consciously articulate why some males seem more masculine than others, but unconscious parts of their minds, adapted by evolution, can spot those signs.)

      And rather than just be fertile at certain times of the year, human females are fertile all year 'round. This is not in order to allow greater numbers of offspring to be produced, because in our natural hunting and gathering condition, a human female can only support about one offspring every four years. Until the beginnings of agriculture (until recently thought to be about 10,00 years ago, recently pushed back to about 23,000 years ago), natural fertility suppression caused by breast-feeding and, if that failed, infanticide, suppressed additional offspring.

      So why be fertile all the time? Well, if a female is fertile all the time, the male must be interested in sex all the time, as the parent poster pointed out, because he never knows when sex will result in progeny. The male may not consciously want offspring; he just wants sex, as those males not wanting sex never had offspring to pass that lack of desire on to. So continual male desire for sex is promoted by the sax evolutionary strategies that also promote non-seasonal but concealed female fertility.

      What's the benefit to the female of the male's unrelenting interest in sex? The male's desire for sex keeps him around continuously -- and that aids, not the female, but the offspring. The male will barter for sex by giving the female and her offspring the highly concentrated protein and fat in the meat that the male hunts. By concealing ovulation, the male never knows when he can safely forego the sex, keeping the nutritious meat for himself until the female is fertile and sex will result in the male's progeny.

      But there's even more to it: because fertility is concealed, the male cannot safely allow other males to copulate with "his" female -- as those other males might win the lottery of the female's fertile days. So concealed fertility also promotes pair bonding.

      But if the female does manage to sneak off and copulate with another male, she can get meat from that other male for herself and her offspring -- giving her an incentive to "cheat". So the same pair bonding that cements a male to "his" female also leads, inevitably, to jealousy, fratricide between males, and even male violence toward his mate, to "keep her in line".

      And once again, concealed fertility aids the female -- since the male can never be sure when the female conceives, he can never be sure that a particular child is his; he must take his chances and support all "his" mate's offspring on the hope they are his. (And yet another evolutionary adaptation comes into play, the tendency of newborns to resemble their fathers more than their mothers, to forestall their murder by a father unconvinced of his paternity.)

      Which brings us back to the female preference, when fertile, for masculine men. Because that's only one side of the coin: when not fertile, the female actually prefers less masculine men. Now if it's preferable have offspring with a masculine man
      • I don't know about women prefering LESS masculine men..

        It seems to me that it's just that they don't care much when they are not fertile, and so their good judgment kicks in and they can think logically about it. When they are fertile, their hormones overpower and they want the good genes...
      • by electroniceric (468976) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:19AM (#9550524)
        I hate to be contentious, but could you cite some sources on this?

        One of the things that drives me nuts about evolutionary biology is the constant invocation of "when we were cave men", the supposed activities that humans undertook, and the supposed division of these roles. I would be hard pressed to believe that the minimal fossil and other records that exist over the time spans can give the kind of details necessary to validate this explanation. If I'm incorrect, please point me to these records, and I'll happily reconsider this assertion.

        AFAICT, the whole business of evolutionary biology is to create a logical explanation for various perceptions about human behavior. For example, you are building a logical framework for your perception that dudes like sex more than chicks. But there are scarcely even clear records now that indicate whether on average men or women "want sex more" (or whether the mean is a properly representative statistic). A thorough explanation must obviously consider the role of reporting of desire, and to do this you must consider the long-term socialization of women to be less direct about their sexuality (which is well documented). Doesn't that go a long way in modifying or obscuring any biological phenomena that might exist? And what about the tremendously varying levels of sexual desire observed among men as well as among women (e.g., Match.com thought this important enough to include in their personality profile test for matches).

        I see the researchers in the article undertaking much of this same assumption:
        By manipulating the odds of getting the drink and the size of the drink, he has shown that the rate at which these neurons fire is proportionate to the expected utility of the juice payoff. The implication is electrifying, especially to economists: an abstract, mathematically derived formula appears to be literally hard-wired into the primate brain.

        Leaving aside the brilliance of being able to detect a single neuron firing, he made a plot of how often the neuron fired versus some external parameter that he then varied. Great science. He then inferred a mathemetical relationship governing the relationship between the parameter and the firing of the neuron and presumably fit that plot to estimate how well the data were represented by the equation he chose. Also well done science. But to then claim that the logical conclusion is that this relationship is "hard wired" into the monkey's brain is wildly speculative, sort of like measuring the probability that I will ride my bike today versus the dollars I could make doing it, and concluding that I have an economic equation hard-wired into my brain. This negates both free will and any subtlety. What if I just don't feel like riding today?

        The brain scanning stuff is obviously a young field, so it's understandable that people want to advance theories to explain all this new stuff they're seeing, but it'd be nice to see a clearer representation of what the research says and what the research think might explain it.
      • by b-baggins (610215) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:19AM (#9550532) Journal
        Which, of course explains completely why so many men stay faithful to their wives after child-bearing years even though the men are still virile.

        It also completely explains why men remain faithful to barren women.

        This load of crap is nothing more than the ranting of some social evolutionist who believes that humans are driven by nothing more than instinct and so tries to come up with some biological mechanism to explain why human men marry human women.
        • Although explained in the context of consciously made decisions, the poster is not implying that these decisions are actually meticulously calculated.

          Men remain faithful to women because they like (love?) that woman or because they are in some way dependent on them...NOT because they've figured it is the best way to ensure the proliferation of their genes.

          That's what our brains buy us.

          However, there are things beyond our control. A man might be in love with one woman, with absolutely no intention or desi
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2004 @11:28AM (#9551099)
          Actually it was a well thought out and a well written post. You are the one who is ranting a load of crap. You find the theory repellent so you attack it and the poster rather than argue against it. Not surprising as this is /. after all.

          Steven Pinker discusses similar problems in his book The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature [amazon.co.uk]. Suggesting that nature can be an important factor (even if only a little) gets you labelled a extremist nutter. Yet those who say mans instincts are unimportant are considered moderate and acceptable. Robert Winston in his BBC programme [bbc.co.uk] also had to deal with similar attacks after his show aired.

          It is clear, to me at least, that a large portion of human behaviour has an instinctive aspect to it. Some reinforced by culture and others reigned in by the same. No one is denying upbringing and culture have an affect on how someone behaves or that people are unable to contain the animal within. (Which I presume is your beef with the post). Just that human evolution has also provided some instinct mechanisms that also affect how someone behaves. I don't recall the 'crap' spouting poster suggesting otherwise.
        • by invid (163714)
          Actually, it does explain why so many men stay faithful to their wives after child-bearing years. It states that there was an evolutionary advantage for men to stick around women even if he wasn't sure she was fertile. Sexual attraction and emotional bonding evolved to keep the man around. It grew to such strength that it can keep a man around even if the woman is no longer fertile. You can't deny that men have a tendency to be attracted to young, fertile appearing women. But it is because of evolution that
      • Hmmm ... first I read:

        Fortunately or not ... human females will tend to prefer the more rotund and nerdy Slashdot-type male when she's not fertile, and very masculine hunks when she is fertile.

        Sounds okay to me. But then I read:

        And rather than just be fertile at certain times of the year, human females are fertile all year 'round.

        There goes the last bit of hope I had in me.

      • "And with good reason: human females, almost uniquely among animals, conceal when they're fertile."

        Interesting theory, but direct experience and a little recent research [discoveryhealth.co.uk] claim otherwise.

        Actually a good body of older research also points to signs that human females are likely to be more aggressive in pursuing a mating partner during estrus.

        Start talking to some female friends (yes, this often requires we actually leave our desks - 'HotChik69' on that chat room window is probably an obese 40-somethi

        • "And with good reason: human females, almost uniquely among animals, conceal when they're fertile."

          Interesting theory, but direct experience and a little recent research [discoveryhealth.co.uk] claim otherwise.

          Did you read what I wrote? Did you read the article you linked to?

          I made a point that most women don't consciously know when they're fertile, but that (as shown by their tendency to prefer more masculine men when fertile) they are unconsciously aware of it. I wrote

          women themselves don't know when t


          • "Did you read what I wrote? Did you read the article you linked to?"

            Errrm... yes, I did. Hence my reply. You wrote as your key claim that: " human females, almost uniquely among animals, conceal when they're fertile.".

            And I called bullshit on that. Talk to any number of women who care to discuss it. Many sure as hell know, based on the fact that they have marked changes in both physiology and increased sex drive. And yes, that's ovulation and hence fertility they're aware of, not only menstruation.

            • And I called bullshit on that. Talk to any number of women who care to discuss it. Many sure as hell know, based on the fact that they have marked changes in both physiology and increased sex drive. And yes, that's ovulation and hence fertility they're aware of, not only menstruation.

              Maybe I know when I'm ovulating, maybe I don't (consciously). But I don't *change color* or anything when I do. Most primate species, however, do have outwardly visible biological changes during estrus.

              Both of which point
      • By all this, it sounds like a polygamous pod, or at minimum an MMF triad, would make the most sense. The males still get the sex they want. The hunting gets done more efficiently. The woman gets the meat, and the, um, meat, as well as help with the youngin'.
      • Great post, but...

        Until the beginnings of agriculture (until recently thought to be about 10,00 years ago, recently pushed back to about 23,000 years ago), natural fertility suppression caused by breast-feeding and, if that failed, infanticide, suppressed additional offspring.

        Actually, before agriculture, women generally were *not* fertile year-round. Women have to be at a certain percentage body fat to build up the uterine lining, and ranging an average of 10 miles a day to find enough food to sustain
  • Two things... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ifwm (687373) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:19AM (#9549685) Journal
    First, why do researchers assume that blood flow and glucose use equals proof of thought patterns? Now, there may be a correlation, but as my research methods professor loved to say "correlation does not equal causation"

    Second, juice may not get him. but cocaine will. I saw a study that showed a monkey will give up everything, including food and sex, for cocaine.
    • Re:Two things... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by glueball (232492) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:42AM (#9549788)
      The BOLD theory, that's why. Blood Oxygenation Level Detection. You are not measuring glucose directly, you are measuring a spin-able for of hemoglobin that is in the state of giving up oxygen. Oxygen is thought to be used in glucose metabolism. Metabolism is thought to be a sign of life. FMRI measures the amount of hemoglobin. The interesting data comes from measuring *changes* in the amount of hemoglobin utilization.

      One can see motor movements in the brain. I tell you to move your finger (or think about moving your finger ) and I can see in the brain the area that: hears me say "move your finger" then the language area that interprets "move your finger" and the pre-motor area firing, then the motor area firing.

      There are a million tests that can be given in the MR scanner. Some of them can be really funny.

      Examples on request.

    • Because when you cut those bits out of your head, (Yep we have the Nazis to thank) the functionality relates to the energy burnt.
    • Re:Two things... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      First off, the article butchers fMRI. Part of my day is spent doing functional stuff. You don't watch the blood flow -- you look for changes in blood oxygenation level.

      Next take a patient in an fMRI study. A very typical normalization task is to simply use a soft brush to rub say the left hand. Neuroanatomists have known for pushing a hundred years where in the brain (specifically where on the humonculus) this will be registered. (By reverse engineering: damage to some part of the brain leaves the pati
    • First, why do researchers assume that blood flow and glucose use equals proof of thought patterns?

      Why do Americans reading a popular description of research assume that the researchers are idiots &&/|| in a conspiracy?? :-)

      As another comment said, there are of course lots of other data not mentioned in the popular article -- and a technical motivation (energy use correlates with blood flow).

      juice may not get him. but cocaine will.

      I don't know much about cocaine, but most drugs stimul

      • by TheLink (130905)
        Which is why I think that certain types of drugs should be prohibited by law to the general population.

        Go ask an addict of one of those drugs - NOTHING else matters, but the next hit. Sure you could keep giving drugs to them so they have a semblance of function, but their brains have been _damaged_.

        I wonder what they'd pick if you give them a choice between getting the drug and the next high, and then after that _death_ vs not getting the drug forever.

        • Which is why I think that certain types of drugs should be prohibited by law to the general population.

          Great idea! Gee, why hasn't anyone tried that?
    • Re:Two things... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Dr_Emory (181130) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:31AM (#9550144)
      This is an excellent point, and one of the most challenging problems with fMRI and other "functional neuroimaging" methods. BOLD-fMRI (Blood Oxygen Level Dependent) relies on the fact that oxyhemoglobin is dimagnetic and deoxyhemoglobin is paramagnetic (a very interesting fact that was discovered in the 1950s by no other than Linus Pauling . . .), which means that oxygenated blood can be made to look "brighter" using certain MRI techniqies. The theoretical steps from neuronal activity to BOLD signal are this:

      1. Neurons fire
      2. Transient decrease of blood oxygen in that area due to increased use
      3. Compensatory regional increase in blood flow causes increase in blood oxygen.
      4. Miracle occurs / Change in concentration in oxygen imaged with MRI and bright "blobs" superimposed over structural image.

      Many problems with this technique, and many assumptions that must be made. Just a few:
      1. We assume that there is a consistent time course to these steps. During image processing, the blood oxygen vs. time curve is usually assumed to follow a particular theoretical model all over the brain. Problem is, maybe the compensatory increase in oxygenation is much slower in some areas of the brain than it is in others.
      2. We have very little idea what it means that we see increased or decreased "activity" in an area, particularly when comparing normal and diseased conditions. Perhaps some areas of the brain are "always on" and there is no clear contrast between that condition and a "working" condition, therefore they NEVER appear to be activated by fMRI. Maybe the area of increased activity represents a "downstream effect" of activity in another area? Does increased activity suggest better function (e.g. more blood = gasoline to the engine = higher speed) or worse (less efficient engine = more gasoline to engine = same speed at higher cost).

      Despite these problems, fMRI is damn cool because you really can "see someone think", which is a relatively new scientific development. The technology will get better, and eventually we'll get closer to the actual neurons, in terms of taking pictures of real neuronal activation instead of a blood oxygen proxy four or five physiological steps away. Anyhow, cool stuff.
    • Re:Two things... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hsoom (680862)
      Second, juice may not get him. but cocaine will. I saw a study that showed a monkey will give up everything, including food and sex, for cocaine.

      True, I've read about a similar experiment with a monkey. The experiment with the monkey is a crude measurement of how addictive a substance is. Basically the monkey has to press a button a certain number of times to get a hit of some substance. Each time the monkey gets a hit it must make more presses than the previous time. By the end of the experiment the mon
  • by PornMaster (749461) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:19AM (#9549686) Homepage
    I'm not sure that monkeys know the difference, but when I consider chance in a wagering-like fashion, I tend to consider whether or not something will really change my life for more than just the short-term.

    Dropping $20 on an array of Mega Millions tickets is mathematically irrational, but with or without that $20, my life for the next two weeks will be about the same. If I were to win, however, even the second-best prize, it would enable me to purchase a nice house.

    When it's a matter of playing a game where the expected value of my dollar is $0.95, but I'm more likely to win $2 or $3, why bother? But even if the expected value of my dollar is $0.75 or less with a prize of many million and many over $100k, despite the miniscule chances of winning, it would change my life.

    Of course, if I had an expected value of $1.05 for my dollar, I'm smart enough to play consistently even if my dollar only wins a little at a time.

    -PM
    • In game theory, there's one model that states that people choose based on the expected value to them of the outcome. Losing $1 doesn't have much effect on you, but the value to you of winning $1million is huge, so it makes semse to gamble.

      This isn't strictly relevant, but has anyone figured out why most people get the probablities wrong in Don't Get The Goat [grand-illusions.com] (no relation to goatse). Even intelligent people often get it wrong. I remember spending ages trying to explain it to an intelligent person with good

      • One of the better ways to convince people of this is to take it to the extreme; say 1 million doors, and I'll open all but one other door than the one you chose.

        Even then you still get some people thinking that suddenly they had a 50/50 shot of picking the right door on the first go...
    • by glyph42 (315631) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:33AM (#9549743) Homepage Journal
      Dropping $20 into a nice, juicy retirement savings plan every two weeks is guaranteed to change your life. Take your lottery tickets, and whatever other impulse purchases you can identify, and divert the money into savings. Why bother gambling? You'll thank yourself many times over when you're older.
    • Ah, yeah... thanks for reminding me that the lotto here in Georgia (or one of them I can buy tickets here) is up over 200 million...

      Time to buy some tickets....otherwise I ignore the lotto...

      Yet I know playing blackjack has better odds of my winning, if I'm going to gamble....
      • Lately I've been wondering about roulette. People have cheated with machines, timing the spin, speed of the ball, and beating the odds. Why can't a person do what the machine does?
  • by kahei (466208) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:26AM (#9549710) Homepage
    there is no quantity of juice sufficient

    Oh really? I bet they only tried 'reasonable' amounts of juice. They can't be sure unless they try an infinite amount of juice -- or rather, an amount of juice so unfeasibly preposterously gigantic that the monkey is simply nable to comprehend it, so that changes in the juice quantity no longer have any effect. When they use that much juice, I'll take remarks like the above seriously

    Disclaimer: I am only writing this because I am thirsty and like thinking about juice.

    • What I don't understand is why you would need fMRI to figure out that they find hindquarters more interesting than juice?
    • Disclaimer: I am only writing this because I am thirsty and like thinking about juice.

      There may not be a quantity of juice sufficient, but I bet I could make a monkey thirsty enough to look away.

    • If there was sufficient juice to collapse into a black hole, the immense gravity might take care of reorienting the monkey's vision. We could also probably achieve the highly sought-after monkey-juice atomic fusion.

      More realistically, we might also be able to submerge the monkey in juice. I suspect that the survival instinct outweighs the ass-staring instinct in most monkeys, with a moderate thousand-gallon juice investment, rather than the staggering quantity needed to form a black hole.

    • Disclaimer: I am only writing this because I am thirsty and like thinking about juice.

      And thus, the corrollary: there is no quantity of thirst significant enough to pull a geek away from /. (Or at least, kahei has not yet reached that quantity.)
  • by millahtime (710421) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:29AM (#9549720) Homepage Journal
    OK, so say they find out how the brain works in this way. Who is going to use it, advertisers. If they could use drungs or subliminal things they would. Now what, my girlfriend will want to shop more. Now, they will get me to buy more useless things.

    Someone please tell me how this is going to help me?
    • Yup, of course advertisers will use this stuff. Here's proof from the article:

      ... The implication is electrifying, especially to economists: an abstract, mathematically derived formula appears to be literally hard-wired into the primate brain.

      And that, in turn, is a step toward the holy grail of marketing: being able to figure out how people will make choices that haven't been offered yet. The same tools that can answer deep questions about primate behavior can also be used to get people to sign up for mo

      • "And that, in turn, is a step toward the holy grail of marketing: being able to figure out how people will make choices that haven't been offered yet."

        Except, of course, the slight problem that even if you can measure the result on a single neuron in a single primate, the brain is so horrendously complex that it will be an entirely different neuron firing at a different rate in an individual with a slightly different life experience.

        Unless the idea is to have monitors surgically implanted into the entire
    • Someone please tell me how this is going to help me?

      This is a fair question. I'm in one of the labs mentioned in this article, so I'll try giving it a shot.

      Most basic research is often a number of steps removed from applicability. Most non-scientists do not think research is useful unless it has clear applicability. One could make the subtle argument that an increase in human knowledge, especially an increase in knowledge about ourselves, is an intrinsic good and elevates us as a society. I'm not going
      • Mod this up!

        Kudos to you for giving a thorough and articulate reply to a skeptic. I find it very convincing when someone is willing to honestly address doubts with the work they are doing.

      • Excellent post. Let me add one more point:

        I am just finishing up a Master's program in Transportation Planning. What surprised me about the program was how often we kept coming back to the study of economics in approaching transportation problems. Understanding how people make decisions is key to *changing* the decisions they make. Without knowing why someone will drive by themselves, even though they know that they'll save money by taking transit or time by carpooling, you cannot hope to increase vehi
  • by bmiller949 (681252) * on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:33AM (#9549739)
    According to the them, science has it wrong. They should be scanning my posterior instead of my head. Since I married them, I would agree.

  • People don't save enough for their retirements because of a phenomenon known as forward discounting: ...

    No, it's from not having a job! You insensitive clod!

  • origin of war (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ch-chuck (9622) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:35AM (#9549755) Homepage
    now imagine TWO male monkeys who can't look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.
  • fMRI (Score:5, Informative)

    by bcaffo (681613) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:37AM (#9549763) Homepage
    It's great to see fMRI getting some press, but the article fails to mention some of the important limitations of the technology. The magnitude of the signal is only 1-5% over the noise and comparisons need to be made at thousands of locations. Also only very simple tasks can reasonably be studied. Regardless, the technology has great promise in medical applications. I am currently invovled in a a study where fMRI is accurately distinguishing between patients who are at high risk for AD and controls. As an additional plug, I think quantitative neurology is great area for CS, Math etc types to get involved in.
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:37AM (#9549767) Journal
    of course, the dynamics of the situation involve the potential payoffs of interacting with human society.

    The only category of people who consistently play as game theory dictates, offering the minimum possible amount, are those who don't take into account the feelings of the other player. They are autistics.

    Note that humans are thus called irrational, when in fact the game theory models is deficient, leaving out all of the factors that normal people use when making human decisions.

    maybe they should have used MS marketing droids

    :P

    • Game theory doesn't seek to predict human decisions -- it's interested in the fabled "rational actor." Game theory is about optimizing in a game setting, much like multi-variable calc is (sometimes) about finding the highest point of a surface.

      It's economics, not game theory, that assumes human rationality. In 90% of circumstances, that assumption accurately predicts behavior. It's the other 10% when tribal mentalities (including trust, disgust, vengeance, anger, jealousy, etc.) all kick in that the axioms
      • More importantly, I think one has to keep in mind that people are rational actors given their experience and organic motivations, not just money. Drugs and sex are potent motivators, and people rationally seek them out! And if you don't know about compound interest, you won't invest.
      • It's economics, not game theory, that assumes human rationality. In 90% of circumstances, that assumption accurately predicts behavior.

        Care to back up that claim? I think that if economics predicts human behavior accurately in 10% of circumstances, that is already giving it more credit than it is due.
    • Note that humans are thus called irrational, when in fact the game theory models is deficient, leaving out all of the factors that normal people use when making human decisions.

      That use of the term "irrational" comes from economists, who started using it before it even dawned on them that social and other psychological rewards and concerns may be valuable as well. And many economists haven't figured it out to this day.

      Biologists realized the rationality of emotions and their importance for survival much
      • That use of the term "irrational" comes from economists, who started using it before it even dawned on them that social and other psychological rewards and concerns may be valuable as well. And many economists haven't figured it out to this day.

        It's like the old joke about the drunk searching for his keys under the streetlight.

        Cop comes along, ask what's up, guy says, "Oh, I dropped my keys down the block, and I'm looking for them."

        Cop asks, "But if you dropped your keys somewhere else, why are you look
    • You are referring to "Ultimatum". The reporter states A's motivation as:

      A makes the most money by offering one dollar to B, keeping nine for himself, and B should accept it, because one dollar is better than none.

      But fails to mention that B has exactly the same power and motive as A does. When you understand this, you understand why people tend to walk away with $5 each. There is nothing irrational about it.

      Only a lack of reasoning can make the situation go any other way. People in the room might no

  • by rel4x (783238) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:41AM (#9549782)
    I can do this research for about $0.
    How many people here enjoy Hustler or Playboy?
    ok, now how many enjoy "Big juice box weekly"?
    What if they added more juice?
    even more?
    Case closed.
    • by liquidpele (663430) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:53AM (#9550302) Journal
      Interestingly, with humans you can find people that would rather read about big juice boxes.

      Think religious people, etc. The whole free will and concious thing comes into play, eh?
      • I don't do pr0nmags. They annoy the hell out of me, honeslty. The cheaper ones are just nasty, the "upper class" ones are totally airbrushed, I'm not down with the variety of models, and at the bottom line... pictures don't breathe. They don't sweat. There's no smell.

        There is, in short, no fucking point. It's a waste of my time.

        So yeah, if I'm going to read a magazine, it's going to be one that's focused on something of use to me, like technology. Something I can read and put down without feeling ir
    • Hey smart guy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Illserve (56215) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:27AM (#9550598)
      Try running this experiment on people who haven't had anything to drink for 12 hours and see how it turns out :)

      Yet another beautiful experiment runs headlong into the brutal facts.

    • You said it as a joke, but it is significant. There is a percentage of humans who find playboy or hustler offensive and will NOT look at it for whatever reason (offense at exploitation of women, religious morality, etc.)

      The point is that human beings can consciously choose to restrain their sexual impulses which makes humans unique in the animal kingdom. And which also makes this study pretty much irrelevant. You may be able to find ways to exploit people who have totally given in to their sexual desires,
      • I'm sure monkeys could be trained to do this too. Deprive them of water long enough and you can get them to do anything.

        Everyone has their price.
      • The point is that human beings can consciously choose to restrain their sexual impulses which makes humans unique in the animal kingdom.

        But for every prude we have a goatse.

      • Sex, coccaine, and money all affect the same centre of the brain: the pleasure centre. This is primarily mediated by the dopamine system (see e.g., Schultz, Dayan, & Montague, 1997). If a choice is made to restrain one pleasure-inducing action, the shift is to another pleasure-inducing framework/perspective (e.g., moral purity). Until we recognize this in our models, our predictions regarding subjectively rational behaviour will collapse in bubbles of irrationality.

        The brain is involved, irrespect
  • What even if the monkey hasn't had anything to drink for the past week (well maybe day or two, I don't tnik it could do anything after a week).
  • by rel4x (783238) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:46AM (#9549806)
    Oo! I've thought of what to do with this information. We can start using sex to sell things, like juice! I wonder why no one has thought of it before!
  • Trust? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MisanthropicProgram (763655) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:46AM (#9549813)
    "If we knew what creates trust and could intervene to encourage it, we could do a lot of good for the world," says Camerer.

    No, it would be used to get people to "trust" a corp. or Government, so that they buy more shit or follow mindlessly the politicians. Because, only the corps or gov'ts would have the money to afford such a procedure.

    • Re:Trust? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ironica (124657)
      No, it would be used to get people to "trust" a corp. or Government, so that they buy more shit or follow mindlessly the politicians. Because, only the corps or gov'ts would have the money to afford such a procedure.

      You sure don't seem to have a lot of trust in the system... ;-)

      But actually, increasing the level of trust between actors (using the economic terminology here) would solve a lot of prisoner's dilemma type issues. A lot of our dysfunctional systems are that way simply because people do not tr
  • by cpthowdy (609034) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:10AM (#9549991)
    with my "Jump To Conclusions" mat. Good enough for all of life's decisions!
  • I remember doing computer simulations with researchers that used this concept 10yrs ago for addiction research *on humans*. Wasn't accurate compared to PET scanning with EEG biofeedback. I guess technologies likely gotten better, but the problem in this [we discovered] was getting a true mesaure of blood flow: it's pretty much a multi-body problem, more of a 6-body problem (blood flow rate, direction, glucose metabolism rate, type of brain matter, etc...). Simulations only go so far since most models repre
  • Consciousness Theory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fishing (206255) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:30AM (#9550138)
    Anyone interested in theories of consciousness and how they might relate to artificial neural networks, you may want to check out "Radiant Cool" by Dan Lloyd.
    In this book he uses multi-dimensional scaling analysis of fMRI scans to predict past and future states of the same brain, as well as doing the same thing with artificial networks.
    It then uses the evidence from this research to propose what (to me, at least) is the first really solid explanation for what consciousness may actually "be".
    The book is written in 2 parts... the first one is a detective novel where the main character is a Phenomenologist and in the process of solving a murder finds a theory of consciousness. The 2nd part of the book is a factual appendix describing the work.
    Awesome stuff, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in neural nets and AI.
  • articles like this are especially frustrating to MRI physics geeks like me, because there's a delicate balance bwteen wanting the media to help promote science, and watching helplessly as they mangle it into pure science fiction. The BOLD effect by which fMRI observes brain activity is orders of magnitude removed from the sensitivity of indivdual neuron measurements, and as other commentators have pointed out there's a real limit on what you can expect to understand about human thought processes using that tool.

    I've actually started a blog devoted to megnetoic resonance imaging (http://refscan.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] and would like to invite anyone else interested in MRI to visit and comment. Our patron Saint is Magneto :)
  • by slimak (593319) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:57AM (#9550343)
    On a related note, check out the 9.4 T [uic.edu] (9.4 T link off to side) scanner at UIC. AFAIK it is the largest (in sense of the static -- B0 -- field) system that is capable of imaging a human. Other stronger magnets exist (such as 14 T), but they have much smaller bores that limit the size of the object being imaged to about the size of a mouse. I believe that they have this beast up at field now and are currently building the gradients for it.

    Should be interesting to see what its capable of, and if anyone is willing to go inside (considering the strength)!

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:59AM (#9550370) Homepage
    This is yet another case of scientists "discovering" what philosophers had known thousands of years ago. A quote from the article:

    "the Platonic metaphor of the mind as a charioteer driving twin horses of reason and emotion is on the right track--except that cognition is a smart pony, and emotion a big elephant."

    The only thing is, this is basically what the Platonic metaphor says- reason is a weak little horse that doesn't do much of anything, and passion is a wild, kicking, biting stallion that moves the whole thing wherever it wants. The pony/elephant distinction doesn't add anything to the metaphor. Don't get me wrong- the technology is neat and all, and the article might have been worth it for news on technology. But 'humans are irrational'? Is that really news to anyone?

  • by bfg9000 (726447) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:03AM (#9550401) Homepage Journal
    ... there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female

    Don't offer juice, offer a chance for a First Post modded up to +5, Insightful. Trust me, I have to beat the women off with a stick to get to my keyboard in time. Slashdot is my juice and I'm swimming in an ocean of it, baby.
  • by mveloso (325617) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:35AM (#9550657)
    How about that for morality and ethics in the world of reporters?

    "I reasoned that a man would have been just as competitive as I am, and guessed that I was going to betray him on the ninth round--so he would have kept all $30 to himself on the eighth round. At least, most of the ones I know would have, although maybe a sample consisting mostly of journalists isn't entirely representative."

    These tests would be an excellent way to see the norms inside each profession. This sort of attitude is the same one routinely lambasted by the press, but in the context of business people. If the CEO of a company had said that he'd be a heartless capitalist. But it turns out that he's not heartless, the reporter is just jealous.

    How about that, folks?
    • "I reasoned that a man would have been just as competitive as I am, and guessed that I was going to betray him on the ninth round--so he would have kept all $30 to himself on the eighth round. At least, most of the ones I know would have, although maybe a sample consisting mostly of journalists isn't entirely representative."

      These tests would be an excellent way to see the norms inside each profession.


      And, in fact, in one article I read about game theory experiments, they pointed out that none of the sub
  • Wait, what kind of juice is it?
  • Jonathan Edwards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by technoCon (18339) on Monday June 28, 2004 @12:09PM (#9551461) Homepage Journal
    Though most folks recall Jonathan Edwards once preaching of spiders dangling over the maw of hell, his most significant writing was philosophical particularly on the topic of Free Will.

    Jonathan Edwards said that Free Will consists of the mind choosing that which it finds most pleasing or agreeable based on what it knows at that moment. I think considerations like this drove Soren Kierkegaard mad choosing to make himself miserable because it pleased him to exercize his will so.

    It would be interesting to know what this continent's most thoughtful Calvinist would think about these experiments. I think he'd be pleased, but he might differ on the interpretations of the findings.
  • by bubba_ry (574102) on Monday June 28, 2004 @12:22PM (#9551594)

    Y'know, the one thing that I could never understand about research of this type (trying to figure out what a consumer/person wants) is that the same people performing the research are consumers themselves. If they all just sat down and discussed their buying wants and habits, they'd have a huge body of work to publish from. I guess this is just further proof of my belief that man will always look to the outside to try to understand himself.

  • ... there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.'

    Depends on the kind of juice [imdb.com].
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday June 28, 2004 @03:10PM (#9553352) Homepage Journal
    Why are divorces so expensive?

    Because they're worth it.

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