The Times has a concise piece on a recent study published in Science magazine suggesting that performance on an economic bargaining task could be changed by altering the function of the brain with magnets.
Neuroscientist Dr Daria Knoch and her colleagues asked participants to pay the ultimatum game while, at certain points, the function of their right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) was disrupted by magnetic pulses.
The team found that when this brain area was disrupted, participants were more likely to accept lower offers of money in the game.
The Times article is a good description of both the game (which is now a widely-used research task) and the results of the study, as well as some commentary on the growing recognition of neuroeconomics as a research field.
George Loewenstein, Professor of Economics and Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, and one of the pioneers of neuro-economics, said: “The new science of neuro-economics is lending support to a very ancient view of human behaviour. That is the idea that there is a conflict and interaction between passion, and reason and self-interest.
“The now standard view of people as rational maximisers of self-interest is a very recent view. Neuroscience is telling us that that was a bit of a diversion. The rational side is a process that sometimes overrides the dominant interest on human behaviour, which is the passionate side.”