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Friday, June 8, 2012
Suspicion Mapped in Brain
This work is actually quite suggestive and needs to be thought
through a lot more. We can now investigate what cause a loss of
trust in all its potential subtleties and that is rather valuable as
any marketing professional can tell you.
Just using this experimental rig to operate focus groups is
immediately attractive. We need to know when a message has gone off
cue and this looks like it can do just that.
This is excellent work and I look forward to much more.
in two regions of the brain
by Staff Writers
Roanoke, VA (SPX)
May 28, 2012
Fool me once, shame on
you. Fool me twice, shame on my parahippocampal gyrus. Read Montague,
Ph.D., and colleagues at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research
Institute discovered two distinct sites for suspicion in the brain:
the amygdala, which correlates strongly with a baseline
distrustfulness, and the parahippocampal gyrus, which acts like a
cerebral lie detector. Credit: Virginia Tech
Scientists at the
Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have found that suspicion
resides in two distinct regions of the brain: the amygdala, which
plays a central role in processing fear and emotional memories, and
the parahippocampal gyrus, which is associated with declarative
memory and the recognition of scenes.
"We wondered how
individuals assess the credibility of other people in simple social
interactions," said Read Montague, director of the Human
Neuroimaging Laboratory and the Computational Psychiatry Unit at the
Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, who led the study.
"We found a
strong correlation between the amygdala and a baseline level of
distrust, which may be based on a person's beliefs about the
trustworthiness of other people in general, his or her emotional
state, and the situation at hand. What surprised us, though, is that
when other people's behavior aroused suspicion, the parahippocampal
gyrus lit up, acting like an inborn lie detector."
The scientists used
functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to study the neural
basis of suspicion. Seventy-six pairs of players, each with a buyer
and a seller, competed in 60 rounds of a simple bargaining game while
having their brains scanned. At the beginning of each round, the
buyer would learn the value of a hypothetical widget and suggest a
price to the seller.
The seller would then
set the price. If the seller's price fell below the widget's given
value, the trade would go through, with the seller receiving the
selling price and the buyer receiving any difference between the
selling price and the actual value. If the seller's price exceeded
the value, though, the trade would not execute, and neither party
would receive cash.
The authors found, as
detailed in a previous paper, that buyers fell into three strategic
categories: 42 percent were incrementalists, who were relatively
honest about the widget's value; 37 percent were conservatives, who
adopted the strategy of withholding information; and 21 percent were
strategists, who were actively deceptive, mimicking incrementalist
behavior by sending high suggestions during low-value trials and then
reaping greater benefits by sending low suggestions during high-value
The sellers had a
monetary incentive to read the buyers' strategic profiles correctly,
yet they received no feedback about the accuracy of the information
they were receiving, so they could not confirm any suspicions about
patterns of behavior.
Without feedback, the
sellers were forced to decide whether they should trust the buyers
based on the pricing suggestions alone. "The more uncertain a
seller was about a buyer's credibility," Montague said, "the
more active his or her parahippocampal gyrus became."
The authors believe
a person's baseline suspicion may have important consequences for
his or her financial success.
"People with a
high baseline suspicion were often interacting with fairly
trustworthy buyers, so in ignoring the information those buyers
provided, they were giving up potential profits," said Meghana
Bhatt, the first author on the research paper. "The ability to
recognize credible information in a competitive environment can be
just as important as detecting untrustworthy behavior."
The findings may also
have implications for such psychiatric conditions as paranoia and
anxiety disorders, said Montague. "The fact that increased
amygdala activation corresponds to an inability to detect trustworthy
behavior may provide insight into the social interactions of people
with anxiety disorders, who often have increased activity in this
area of the brain," he said.
The research appeared
in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on May 10 in the article "Distinct
contributions of the amygdala and parahippocampal gyrus to suspicion
in a repeated bargaining game" by Meghana Bhatt, PhD, an
assistant research professor at the Beckman Research Institute of the
City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, Calif.; Terry Lohrenz, PhD, a
research assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Carilion Research
Institute; Colin F. Camerer?, PhD, the Robert Kirby Professor of
Behavioral Economics at the California Institute of Technology; and
Montague, PhD, the corresponding author, who is a professor of
physics at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and in the
College of Science at Virginia Tech. The research was supported by
grants to Read Montague from the Wellcome Trust and the National
Institutes of Health.