Brain Mysteries
Recent News |  Archives |  Tags |  Newsletter |  Message Board/Forum |  About |  Links |  Subscribe to BrainMysteries.com RSS Feed Subscribe


More Articles
Like cling wrap, new biomaterial can coat tricky burn wounds and block out infectionLike cling wrap, new biomaterial can coat tricky burn wounds and block out infection

White dwarfs crashing into neutron stars explain loneliest supernovaeWhite dwarfs crashing into neutron stars explain loneliest supernovae

Dramatic growth of grafted stem cells in rat spinal cord injuriesDramatic growth of grafted stem cells in rat spinal cord injuries

Watching chemistry in motion: Chemical environments mapped using molecular vibrationsWatching chemistry in motion: Chemical environments mapped using molecular vibrations

Geckos use toe hairs to turn stickiness on/offGeckos use toe hairs to turn stickiness on/off

Lithium-based neutron detector named among Top 100 technologies of the yearLithium-based neutron detector named among Top 100 technologies of the year

A self-organizing thousand-robot swarmA self-organizing thousand-robot swarm

Genetically engineered fruit flies could save cropsGenetically engineered fruit flies could save crops

Eco-friendly 'pre-fab nanoparticles' could revolutionize nano manufacturingEco-friendly 'pre-fab nanoparticles' could revolutionize nano manufacturing

Scared of crime? Good.Scared of crime? Good.

Sugary bugs subvert antibodiesSugary bugs subvert antibodies

Diamonds are a quantum computer's best friendDiamonds are a quantum computer's best friend

Mercury in the global oceanMercury in the global ocean

Our ancestor's 'leaky' membrane answers big questions in biologyOur ancestor's 'leaky' membrane answers big questions in biology

Scientists discover the miracle of how geckos move, cling to ceilingsScientists discover the miracle of how geckos move, cling to ceilings

Ancient shellfish remains rewrite 10,000-year history of El Nino cyclesAncient shellfish remains rewrite 10,000-year history of El Nino cycles

Crash-testing rivetsCrash-testing rivets

Photo editing algorithm changes weather, seasons automaticallyPhoto editing algorithm changes weather, seasons automatically

Seamless gene correction of beta-thalassemia mutations in patient-specific cellsSeamless gene correction of beta-thalassemia mutations in patient-specific cells

Geography matters: Model predicts how local 'shocks' influence U.S. economyGeography matters: Model predicts how local 'shocks' influence U.S. economy

Shrinking dinosaurs evolved into flying birdsShrinking dinosaurs evolved into flying birds

'I cant figure out how to do this!''I cant figure out how to do this!'

Running for life: How speed restricts evolutionary change of the vertebral columnRunning for life: How speed restricts evolutionary change of the vertebral column

Protein's 'hands' enable bacteria to establish infection, research findsProtein's 'hands' enable bacteria to establish infection, research finds

A healthy lifestyle adds years to lifeA healthy lifestyle adds years to life

Do probiotics help kids with stomach bugs?Do probiotics help kids with stomach bugs?

Strict diet suspends development, doubles lifespan of wormsStrict diet suspends development, doubles lifespan of worms

Identified for the first time what kind of explosive has been used after the detonationIdentified for the first time what kind of explosive has been used after the detonation

Copied from nature: Detecting software errors via genetic algorithmsCopied from nature: Detecting software errors via genetic algorithms

Scientists develop novel use of neurotechnology to solve classic social problem (9/11/2009)

Tags:
fmri, decisions

Economists and neuroscientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have shown that they can use information obtained through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measurements of whole-brain activity to create feasible, efficient, and fair solutions to one of the stickiest dilemmas in economics, the public goods free-rider problem-long thought to be unsolvable.

This is one of the first-ever applications of neurotechnology to real-life economic problems, the researchers note. "We have shown that by applying tools from neuroscience to the public-goods problem, we can get solutions that are significantly better than those that can be obtained without brain data," says Antonio Rangel, associate professor of economics at Caltech and the paper's principal investigator.

The paper describing their work was published today in the online edition of the journal Science, called Science Express.

Examples of public goods range from healthcare, education, and national defense to the weight room or heated pool that your condominium board decides to purchase. But how does the government or your condo board decide which public goods to spend its limited resources on? And how do these powers decide the best way to share the costs?

"In order to make the decision optimally and fairly," says Rangel, "a group needs to know how much everybody is willing to pay for the public good. This information is needed to know if the public good should be purchased and, in an ideal arrangement, how to split the costs in a fair way."

In such an ideal arrangement, someone who swims every day should be willing to pay more for a pool than someone who hardly ever swims. Likewise, someone who has kids in public school should have more of her taxes put toward education.

But providing public goods optimally and fairly is difficult, Rangel notes, because the group leadership doesn't have the necessary information. And when people are asked how much they value a particular public good-with that value measured in terms of how many of their own tax dollars, for instance, they'd be willing to put into it-their tendency is to lowball.

Why? "People can enjoy the good even if they don't pay for it," explains Rangel. "Underreporting its value to you will have a small effect on the final decision by the group on whether to buy the good, but it can have a large effect on how much you pay for it."

In other words, he says, "There's an incentive for you to lie about how much the good is worth to you."

That incentive to lie is at the heart of the free-rider problem, a fundamental quandary in economics, political science, law, and sociology. It's a problem that professionals in these fields have long assumed has no solution that is both efficient and fair.

In fact, for decades it's been assumed that there is no way to give people an incentive to be honest about the value they place on public goods while maintaining the fairness of the arrangement.

"But this result assumed that the group's leadership does not have direct information about people's valuations," says Rangel. "That's something that neurotechnology has now made feasible."

And so Rangel, along with Caltech graduate student Ian Krajbich and their colleagues, set out to apply neurotechnology to the public-goods problem.

In their series of experiments, the scientists tried to determine whether functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) could allow them to construct informative measures of the value a person assigns to one or another public good. Once they'd determined that fMRI images-analyzed using pattern-classification techniques-can confer at least some information (albeit "noisy" and imprecise) about what a person values, they went on to test whether that information could help them solve the free-rider problem.

They did this by setting up a classic economic experiment, in which subjects would be rewarded (paid) based on the values they were assigned for an abstract public good.

As part of this experiment, volunteers were divided up into groups. "The entire group had to decide whether or not to spend their money purchasing a good from us," Rangel explains. "The good would cost a fixed amount of money to the group, but everybody would have a different benefit from it."

The subjects were asked to reveal how much they valued the good. The twist? Their brains were being imaged via fMRI as they made their decision. If there was a match between their decision and the value detected by the fMRI, they paid a lower tax than if there was a mismatch. It was, therefore, in all subjects' best interest to reveal how they truly valued a good; by doing so, they would on average pay a lower tax than if they lied.

"The rules of the experiment are such that if you tell the truth," notes Krajbich, who is the first author on the Science paper, "your expected tax will never exceed your benefit from the good."

In fact, the more cooperative subjects are when undergoing this entirely voluntary scanning procedure, "the more accurate the signal is," Krajbich says. "And that means the less likely they are to pay an inappropriate tax."

This changes the whole free-rider scenario, notes Rangel. "Now, given what we can do with the fMRI," he says, "everybody's best strategy in assigning value to a public good is to tell the truth, regardless of what you think everyone else in the group is doing."

And tell the truth they did-98 percent of the time, once the rules of the game had been established and participants realized what would happen if they lied. In this experiment, there is no free ride, and thus no free-rider problem.

"If I know something about your values, I can give you an incentive to be truthful by penalizing you when I think you are lying," says Rangel.

While the readings do give the researchers insight into the value subjects might assign to a particular public good, thus allowing them to know when those subjects are being dishonest about the amount they'd be willing to pay toward that good, Krajbich emphasizes that this is not actually a lie-detector test.

"It's not about detecting lies," he says. "It's about detecting values-and then comparing them to what the subjects say their values are."

"It's a socially desirable arrangement," adds Rangel. "No one is hurt by it, and we give people an incentive to cooperate with it and reveal the truth."

"There is mind reading going on here that can be put to good use," he says. "In the end, you get a good produced that has a high value for you."

From a scientific point of view, says Rangel, these experiments break new ground. "This is a powerful proof of concept of this technology; it shows that this is feasible and that it could have significant social gains."

And this is only the beginning. "The application of neural technologies to these sorts of problems can generate a quantum leap improvement in the solutions we can bring to them," he says.

Indeed, Rangel says, it is possible to imagine a future in which, instead of a vote on a proposition to fund a new highway, this technology is used to scan a random sample of the people who would benefit from the highway to see whether it's really worth the investment. "It would be an interesting alternative way to decide where to spend the government's money," he notes.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by the California Institute of Technology

Comments:

1. myles glasgow

9/12/2009 9:06:22 PM MST

smart students!!!


Leave a Reply:

Search
New Articles
Study demonstrates key brain region in contextual memories

A gene linked to disease found to play a critical role in normal memory developmentA gene linked to disease found to play a critical role in normal memory development

Clues emerge to genetic architecture of cognitive abilities in children

Testosterone in healthy men increases their brains' response to threat

Selective verbal memory impairment due to left fornical crus injury after IVH

Is empathy in humans and apes actually different?Is empathy in humans and apes actually different?

Can fiction stories make us more empathetic?

Bioengineers create functional 3-D brain-like tissueBioengineers create functional 3-D brain-like tissue

Want to kill creativity of women in teams? Fire up the competitionWant to kill creativity of women in teams? Fire up the competition

Regular marijuana use bad for teens' brains

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recallExpecting to teach enhances learning, recall

Scientists unravel mystery of brain cell growthScientists unravel mystery of brain cell growth

Adult myelination -- Wrapping up neuronal plasticity

Notch developmental pathway regulates fear memory formation

Part of the brain stays 'youthful' into older age



Archives
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007


Science Friends
Agricultural Science
Astronomy News
Sports Tech
Biology News
Biomimicry Science
Chemistry News
Tissue Engineering
Cancer Research
Cybernetics Research
Electonics Research
Forensics Report
Fossil News
Genetic Archaeology
Genetics News
Geology News
Microbiology Research
Nanotech News
Parenting News
Physics News


  Archives |  Submit News |  Advertise With Us |  Contact Us |  Links
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. All contents © 2000 - 2015 Web Doodle, LLC. All rights reserved.