The behavioural economist David Laibson has conducted two sets of experiments with undergraduates in the United States which show that information can actively hinder decision-making. In the first set, he asked the students to remember a three-digit number, then gave them the choice between a piece of fruit and a big, sticky chocolate bun. Most chose the piece of fruit. In the second set, he gave them the same choice, but this time asked he asked them to remember an eight-digit number – a number right at the limit of our cognitive capacity. The students overwhelmingly chose the chocolate bun. When our brains are stretched, our primal selves override our rational selves. Laibson showed that, when the students chose the piece of fruit, the area of the brain associated with long-term thinking was active. When they chose the sticky bun, it was the hungry, animal side that lit up.
Friday, 19 December 2008
Insights from neuro-cake-o-nomics 2
Another snippet from the RSA report: