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The e-selfish gene

By davebirch posted May 3 2007 at 7:38 AM

[Dave Birch] It looks like more of our attitude to money may be down to DNA than we might think.  I rather enjoyed the story in many of the papers yesterday concerning the discovery that the experience of losing money is processed by the brain in a similar fashion to pain and fear, which may well explain the reasonably well-known phenomenon that people dread financial misfortune more deeply than they value gains.  Perhaps it's time to add a new category to the blog, "neuroscience.

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Sometimes the findings of research into the relationship between mind, body and money are more obvious.  When scientists reported that the mere thought of money makes people selfish, I naturally assumed that their research findings extended into the e-money world.  This explains why, for example, that everyone who wants to be part of the e-payment value chain wants all of it!  One of the scientists quoted in the article says that “cooperation really goes down the drain when money is an issue.”  As no. 1 son would say, "duh".

Help is at hand though.  Next time I go to a meeting between -- let's say -- banks and mobile operators, I intend to take an umbrella with a hidden drug injection unit in the tip.  This is because it may be possible to influence decision-making around trust and investments by alterting brain chemistry (please don't forward this to our finance director).  It turns out that a group of economists at the University of Zurich have demonstrated that this is feasible through a "trust game", in which one player gives some money to another player, who invests it on his behalf and then decides how much to return to him and how much to keep.  The more the first player invests, the more he stands to gain, but the more he has to trust the second player.  If the players trust each other, both will do well. If they don’t, neither will end up with much money.  Here's the fun part: the experimenters divided students into two groups and one group were dosed with oxytocin, a hormone that the brain produces during breast-feeding, sexual intercourse, and other intimate types of social bonding, while the others got a placebo.  Of the twenty-nine students who were given oxytocin, thirteen invested the maximum money allowed, compared with just six out of twenty-nine in the control group.  Wow.  I'm not wasting time on Powerpoint or Excel ever again: it's oxytocin nasal spray all the way from now on.

My opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public.
[posted with ecto]


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Great post Dave! But come on, a nasal spray?!? The other ways to produce oxytocin are immensely more enjoyable!

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