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Why brain can switch off judgment

March 28th, 2009

“Most average people have this tendency to turn off their own capacity for making judgments when an expert comes into the picture,” says Gregory Berns, a neuroeconomist at Emory University in Atlanta.

His team ask 24 young volunteers to make a simple choice:  accept a sure payment or bet on a riskier, yet higher-paying lottery. While brain of volunteers was calculating a decision,  circuits known to calculate risk and reward was active.

“When advice is not there, when people are making these judgments on their own, you can make clear correlations with expected value in the lottery and areas associated with the dopamine system,” he says.

To see what changes if expert give advice on what to choice. Volunteers was told that Charles Noussair, an economics professor at Emory who advises the US Federal Reserve, would offer his opinion on whether they should accept the easy money or take a chance. After this new information volunteers usually took the expert’s advice blindly. Brain scans shows what the correlation between increased potential reward and brain activity disappeared.

Does this professor’s study fool you? Read full article at PLoS 1.

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