What the brain values vs. what you wish to buy

I have not read this paper (gated full copy here), and I usually get nervous when it comes to brain scan interpretations, not to mention press release interpretations, but even if this has been botched it is still worth thinking about.  A new paper suggests the following:

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that as participants were watching a sequence of faces, their brains were simultaneously evaluating those faces in two distinct ways: for the quality of the viewing experience and for what they would trade to see the face again. 

As the authors put it, experienced value and decision value are not the same.  The main test involves heterosexual men looking at the faces of women and thus one concrete implication, or so it seems to me, is that the pornography men enjoy the most is not necessarily what they are willing to pay the most for.  The authors also note:

…that decision value signals are evident even in the absence of an overt choice task. We conclude that decisions are made by comparing neural representations of the value of different goods encoded in posterior VMPFC in a common, relative currency.

Hat tip goes to MoneyScience on Twitter.


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