Archivio per aprile 2015
Humans typically discount future gains more than losses. This phenomenon is referred to as the “sign effect” in experimental and behavioral economics. Although recent studies have reported associations between the sign effect and important social problems, such as obesity and incurring multiple debts, the biological basis for this phenomenon remains poorly understood. Here, we hypothesized that enhanced loss-related neural processing in magnitude and/or delay representation are causes of the sign effect. We examined participants performing intertemporal choice tasks involving future gains or losses and compared the brain activity of those who exhibited the sign effect and those who did not. When predicting future losses, significant differences were apparent between the two participant groups in terms of striatal activity representing delay length and in insular activity representing sensitivity to magnitude. Furthermore, participants with the sign effect exhibited a greater insular response to the magnitude of loss than to that of gain, and also a greater striatal response to the delay of loss than to that of gain. These findings may provide a new biological perspective for the development of novel treatments and preventive measures for social problems associated with the sign effect.
Psychologists are up in arms over, of all things, the editorial process that led to the recent publication of a special issue of the journal Social Psychology.This may seem like a classic case of ivory tower navel gazing, but its impact extends far beyond academia. The issue attempts to replicate 27 “important findings in social psychology.” Replication—repeating an experiment as closely as possible to see whether you get the same results—is a cornerstone of the scientific method. Replication of experiments is vital not only because it can detect the rare cases of outright fraud, but also because it guards against uncritical acceptance of findings that were actually inadvertent false positives, helps researchers refine experimental techniques, and affirms the existence of new facts that scientific theories must be able to explain.
Decision making under risk entails the anticipation of prospective outcomes, typically leading to the greater sensitivity to losses than gains known as loss aversion. Previous studies on the neural bases of choice-outcome anticipation and loss aversion provided inconsistent results, showing either bidirectional mesolimbic responses of activation for gains and deactivation for losses, or a specific amygdala involvement in processing losses. Here we focused on loss aversion with the aim to address interindividual differences in the neural bases of choice-outcome anticipation. Fifty-six healthy human participants accepted or rejected 104 mixed gambles offering equal (50%) chances of gaining or losing different amounts of money while their brain activity was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We report both bidirectional and gain/loss-specific responses while evaluating risky gambles, with amygdala and posterior insula specifically tracking the magnitude of potential losses. At the individual level, loss aversion was reflected both in limbic fMRI responses and in gray matter volume in a structural amygdala–thalamus–striatum network, in which the volume of the “output” centromedial amygdala nuclei mediating avoidance behavior was negatively correlated with monetary performance. We conclude that outcome anticipation and ensuing loss aversion involve multiple neural systems, showing functional and structural individual variability directly related to the actual financial outcomes of choices. By supporting the simultaneous involvement of both appetitive and aversive processing in economic decision making, these results contribute to the interpretation of existing inconsistencies on the neural bases of anticipating choice outcomes.
In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published1 in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted—rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month2, 3 about the ethical implications of such work.
In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using ‘non-viable’ embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications.
“I believe this is the first report of CRISPR/Cas9 applied to human pre-implantation embryos and as such the study is a landmark, as well as a cautionary tale,” says George Daley, a stem-cell biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Their study should be a stern warning to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes.”
Some say that gene editing in embryos could have a bright future because it could eradicate devastating genetic diseases before a baby is born. Others say that such work crosses an ethical line: researchers warned in Nature2 in March that because the genetic changes to embryos, known as germline modification, are heritable, they could have an unpredictable effect on future generations. Researchers have also expressed concerns that any gene-editing research on human embryos could be a slippery slope towards unsafe or unethical uses of the technique.
The paper by Huang’s team looks set to reignite the debate on human-embryo editing — and there are reports that other groups in China are also experimenting on human embryos.
We calculate the dynamics of tax evasion within a multi-agent econophysics model which is adopted from the theory of magnetism and previously has been shown to capture the main characteristics from agent-based based models which build on the standard Allingham and Sandmo approach. In particular, we implement a feedback of public goods provision on the decision-making of selfish agents which aim to pursue their self interest. Our results imply that such a feedback enhances the moral attitude of selfish agents thus reducing the percentage of tax evasion. Two parameters govern the behavior of selfish agents, (i) the rate of adaption to changes in public goods provision and (ii) the threshold of perception of public goods provision. Furtheron we analyze the tax evasion dynamics for different agent co mpositions and under the feedback of public goods provision. We conclude that policymakers may enhance tax compliance behavior via the threshold of perception by means of targeted public relations.
Prospect theory is widely viewed as the best available descriptive model of how people evaluate risk in experimental settings. According to prospect theory, people are risk-averse with respect to gains and risk-seeking with respect to losses, a phenomenon called “loss aversion”. Despite of the fact that prospect theory has been well developed in behavioral economics at the theoretical level, there exist very few large-scale empirical studies and most of them have been undertaken with micro-panel data. Here we analyze over 28.5 million trades made by 81.3 thousand traders of an online financial trading community over 28 months, aiming to explore the large-scale empirical aspect of prospect theory. By analyzing and comparing the behavior of winning and losing trades and traders, we find clear evidence of the loss aversion phenomenon, an essence in prospect theory. This work hence demonstrates an unprecedented large-scale empirical evidence of prospect theory, which has immediate implication in financial trading, e.g., developing new trading strategies by minimizing the effect of loss aversion. Moreover, we introduce three risk-adjusted metrics inspired by prospect theory to differentiate winning and losing traders based on their historical trading behavior. This offers us potential opportunities to augment online social trading, where traders are allowed to watch and follow the trading activities of others, by predicting potential winners statistically based on their historical trading behavior rather than their trading performance at any given point in time.