Emotion control leads to rational decisions
Emotions play a role even in rational decisions. However, they can be kept in check by higher-level brain centers, according to a study conducted at University College London.
Researchers led by neuroscientist Benedetto de Martino measured the brain activity of twenty people using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they had to make an economic decision: out of £50 they could either keep £20 or the entire amount into a game - with the risk of winning everything or losing everything. In a second variant of the game, the test subjects were again given 50 pounds. This time, however, the choice was: lose 30 pounds safely or gamble.
The wording of the alternatives had a significant impact on gaming behavior: although the guaranteed win was identical in both versions, 62 percent of the test subjects decided to play the negative version (loss of 30 pounds). In contrast, when the wording was positive (20 pounds gain), only 43 percent of participants tried their luck.
As the fMRI measurements showed, the amygdala – a key region of the brain for emotions – reacted in all test subjects when they decided to win or gamble with a certain loss. However, the participants who were not fooled by the formulation of the game alternatives – i.e. behaved rationally – also showed increased activities in the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex. The researchers suspect that these superordinate brain regions control the influence of emotions on decision-making and thus enable rational action.