The brain is an important organ which works in such a way that it dictates the way a person makes the decision (Saaty, 2019). This can influence every decision that a person makes which can be both conscious as well as sub-conscious and this includes the decision related to the matter of economic as well (Tremblay et al., 2017). The present article which is chosen for the review was conducted with the aim to explore the neural basis for the decision-making in economic respect in an ultimate game. The aim of the present review is to explore the background, methodology, key findings, strengths and limitations with relevance to exiting literature.
According to the standard model of economic decision-making in humans for example utility theory, it has minimized or reduced the impact the emotions of a person can have over the decision-making behaviour of a person (Sanfey et al., 2003). According to this, the decision-maker becomes a perfect and rational cognitive machine. In the current article, the authors have explored the idea behind the impact of the brain on the said decision-making capability for this functional imaging of the brain was conducted. The limitation of the standard model is effectively shown by the ultimatum game in which the players are given the opportunity to split the given sum of money (Biella & Sacchi, 2018). One of the players is the proposer and the other one becomes responder. Proposer suggests how the money should be split and responder either accepts or rejects, in former they both get money while in the latter neither get money. If the same is done by standard model, the proposer will offer a small portion to the responder and it is accepted as minimal is also monetary gain (Biella & Sacchi, 2018).
The idea behind the failure of the game is because the responders either does not understand the rules of the game or because they think the partner is being unfair and in order to punish their partners' decision is made to reject the offer.In the present experiment, the researchers recruited nineteen participants and functional imaging of their brains were done by the use of magnetic resonance imaging and each of the participants was scanned when they took the role of responders (Sanfey et al., 2003). The researchers introduced 10 people as participants right before the experiment and it was hypothesized unfair deals would result in changes in the neural structures related to the emotional and cognitive processing. The magnitude of the activation can help in the prediction of outcome. The participants were placed in the MRI machines and they were asked to play the game using a computer interface. These groupings were compared with the control groups mimicking standard model (Sanfey et al., 2003).
From the results of the present experiment, it was seen that behavioural results were similar on both the groups. Acceptance of fair deals was higher compared to unfair ones and unfairness of one and two dollars was higher (Sanfey et al., 2003). The rejection was higher in the group where there was human interaction compared to the one on the computer which suggested that there was more emotional reaction when humans were the partner compared to computers.Functional imaging revealed that areas of activation related to the decision of unfairness corresponding to the emotional response were bilateralanterior insula, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex(DLPFC), and anterior cingulate cortex (Sanfey et al., 2003). The magnitude was also higher in case the partners were humans compared to the computer. The activation of the insula in the right and left side for both the groups when compared was seen to be statistically significant as the p-value obtained was less than 0.05. This activation, as well as the magnitude of the activation, suggests that this is not merely due to decision that is made but there is the involvement of emotion in the decision making (Sanfey et al., 2003).
In another study that was conducted with the aim to understand the regions that are activated in the human brain when an economic decision is to be made and this was done by the use of ultimatum game (Speitel et al., 2019). The authors focused on the areas which are related to decision-making in general and the areas identified were right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ) and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC) (Speitel et al., 2019). The authors concluded that right temporoparietal junction was activated in case of bargaining while the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is associated in the suppression of self-interest in short-term but it does not exist in the long term. This was seen only in responders and not in proposers (Speitel et al., 2019).
Another study was conducted with the aim to test the hypothesis that whether mindfulness is known to promote emotional awareness in cooperative decision making and this was tested by the conduction of functional MRI of the brain when the participants were playing ultimatum game (Kirk et al., 2016). The result of this study was also in accordance with the results of the present study and it was seen that there was functional connectivity in the septal region and insula. These areas were related to the emotional regulation in the decision-making aspect and can be trained to promote social cooperation by mindfulness (Kirk et al., 2016).
Similarly, in another study which was conducted with the aim to understand the neural mechanism behind the economic decision making was used to study the activation of the brain using functional MRI of the brain (Apps & Ramnani, 2017). The results of the study were supportive of the results as the one in the present study and the areas activated were dorsomedial and ventromedial portions of the prefrontal cortex and was related to the emotional component of decision-making. The activation of the region of the brain was seen to be associated with conformity and have social influence in economic decisions (Apps & Ramnani, 2017).
In conclusion, the brain plays an important role in a person's life and help in decision-making related to all the aspects of life. Making the economic decision is one of them and to do so there can be associations with emotions and it is different when there is a human partner compared with a computer partner. When the functional neural imaging of the brain was conducted to explore the area of the brain which gets activated in the emotional context of the decision-making and the area activated was insula and prefrontal context. This finding was corroborated with the result of other studies.
Apps, M. A. J., & Ramnani, N. (2017). Contributions of the medial prefrontal cortex to social influence in economic decision-making. Cerebral Cortex, 27(9), 4635-4648. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhx183.
Biella, M., & Sacchi, S. (2018). Not fair but acceptable… for us! Group membership influences the tradeoff between equality and utility in a Third Party Ultimatum Game. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 77, 117-131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2018.04.007.
Kirk, U., Gu, X., Sharp, C., Hula, A., Fonagy, P., & Montague, P. R. (2016). Mindfulness training increases cooperative decision making in economic exchanges: Evidence from fMRI. NeuroImage, 138, 274-283. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.05.075.
Saaty, T. L. (2019). The Brain: Unraveling the Mystery of How It Works: The Neural Network Process. Rws Publications.
Sanfey, A. G., Rilling, J. K., Aronson, J. A., Nystrom, L. E., & Cohen, J. D. (2003). The neural basis of economic decision-making in the ultimatum game. Science, 300(5626), 1755-1758. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1082976.
Speitel, C., Traut-Mattausch, E., & Jonas, E. (2019). Functions of the right DLPFC and right TPJ in proposers and responders in the ultimatum game. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 14(3), 263-270. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsz005.
Tremblay, S., Sharika, K. M., & Platt, M. L. (2017). Social decision-making and the brain: A comparative perspective. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 21(4), 265-276. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2017.01.007.
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