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Mind Scans to Map Decision Making Mechanics

michael posted about 10 years ago | from the chocolate-strawberry-vanilla dept.

Science 218

rrangel writes "Newsweek is running an article on the fMRI, which tracks brain function by measuring blood flow, and using it for watching the mechanics of economics and choice. Best quote on economic choice: '... there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.' H. Hefner has known that all along."

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218 comments

first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9549648)

w00t!

First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9549651)

YAY!

..there is no quantity of juice sufficient.. (4, Funny)

burgburgburg (574866) | about 10 years ago | (#9549652)

there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.

Why can't wives understand that?

Re:..there is no quantity of juice sufficient.. (5, Funny)

murraythegreat (780556) | about 10 years ago | (#9549660)

very few wives have MRI scanners

Re:..there is no quantity of juice sufficient.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9549722)

> very few wives have MRI scanners

so they rely on an age-old proven technique....mind reading.

Re:..there is no quantity of juice sufficient.. (3, Funny)

Paulrothrock (685079) | about 10 years ago | (#9549762)

Yes. And because they can read minds, they think you can, too.

What do you mean I should have alphabetized the cleaning supplies???

Re:..there is no quantity of juice sufficient.. (0)

JosKarith (757063) | about 10 years ago | (#9549761)

Riiiight.
That's what they'd like you to believe...

Re:..there is no quantity of juice sufficient.. (1, Funny)

ibjhb (173533) | about 10 years ago | (#9549673)

Girlfriends too!

Re:..there is no quantity of juice sufficient.. (-1)

sirdude (578412) | about 10 years ago | (#9549847)

probably because there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a female monkey to refrain from berating her mate for gawking at the hindquarters of another female in estrus..

:P

Humans are lucky... (5, Funny)

mangu (126918) | about 10 years ago | (#9549661)

'... there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.'


We don't need that the female be in estrus.

Re:Humans are lucky... (1)

Tackhead (54550) | about 10 years ago | (#9549849)

> '... there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.'
>
> We don't need that the female be in estrus.

And from the article:

"there's no 'buy button' out there to be found. We're not going to subvert free will. This isn't about screwing the consumer."

Suuuuuuuure. Then what are you showin' all that monkey pr0n?

Re:Humans are lucky... (0)

sirdude (578412) | about 10 years ago | (#9549869)

Some don't need that it be a female, leave alone in estrus.. (no.. not I :P)

Re:Humans are lucky... (4, Informative)

orthogonal (588627) | about 10 years ago | (#9550055)

We [humans] don't need that the female be in estrus.

And with good reason: human females, almost uniquely among animals, conceal when they're fertile.

In fact, they conceal it so well, the women themselves don't know when they are fertile. At least not consciously: human females do show preferences for different types of males depending on whether or not they're fertile. Fortunately or not, depending on whether you're looking to have offspring or just consequence-free sex, human females will tend to prefer the more rotund and nerdy Slashdot-type male when she's not fertile, and very masculine hunks when she is fertile.

(Unlike fertility, there are somewhat obvious signs of how masculine a human male is: higher testosterone produces both dominant behavior and a thinner, more "cut" physical appearance, especially about the face. Female humans may not be able to consciously articulate why some males seem more masculine than others, but unconscious parts of their minds, adapted by evolution, can spot those signs.)

And rather than just be fertile at certain times of the year, human females are fertile all year 'round. This is not in order to allow greater numbers of offspring to be produced, because in our natural hunting and gathering condition, a human female can only support about one offspring every four years. Until the beginnings of agriculture (until recently thought to be about 10,00 years ago, recently pushed back to about 23,000 years ago), natural fertility suppression caused by breast-feeding and, if that failed, infanticide, suppressed additional offspring.

So why be fertile all the time? Well, if a female is fertile all the time, the male must be interested in sex all the time, as the parent poster pointed out, because he never knows when sex will result in progeny. The male may not consciously want offspring; he just wants sex, as those males not wanting sex never had offspring to pass that lack of desire on to. So continual male desire for sex is promoted by the sax evolutionary strategies that also promote non-seasonal but concealed female fertility.

What's the benefit to the female of the male's unrelenting interest in sex? The male's desire for sex keeps him around continuously -- and that aids, not the female, but the offspring. The male will barter for sex by giving the female and her offspring the highly concentrated protein and fat in the meat that the male hunts. By concealing ovulation, the male never knows when he can safely forego the sex, keeping the nutritious meat for himself until the female is fertile and sex will result in the male's progeny.

But there's even more to it: because fertility is concealed, the male cannot safely allow other males to copulate with "his" female -- as those other males might win the lottery of the female's fertile days. So concealed fertility also promotes pair bonding.

But if the female does manage to sneak off and copulate with another male, she can get meat from that other male for herself and her offspring -- giving her an incentive to "cheat". So the same pair bonding that cements a male to "his" female also leads, inevitably, to jealousy, fratricide between males, and even male violence toward his mate, to "keep her in line".

And once again, concealed fertility aids the female -- since the male can never be sure when the female conceives, he can never be sure that a particular child is his; he must take his chances and support all "his" mate's offspring on the hope they are his. (And yet another evolutionary adaptation comes into play, the tendency of newborns to resemble their fathers more than their mothers, to forestall their murder by a father unconvinced of his paternity.)

Which brings us back to the female preference, when fertile, for masculine men. Because that's only one side of the coin: when not fertile, the female actually prefers less masculine men. Now if it's preferable have offspring with a masculine man, why copulate without much chance of issue with non-masculine men?

Apparently, masculine men supply "better" genes -- a greater chance that male offspring will inherit from their fathers that masculinity and dominance and success with women. But less masculine men tend to be better providers for a woman and her offspring: they have the paleolithic equivalent of high-paying computer jobs, while the masculine men are the race car drivers and warriors. Race car drivers and warriors are sexy, but their risk-taking often leads to premature death, preventing them from being around to see their offspring to maturity. And even if the masculine man doesn't die earlier, his very masculine "hotness" means he'll attract a lot of women -- and while his sperm are practically limitless, his ability to support multiple offspring is limited.

But a less attractive, less masculine man is less likely to have other options, and so more likely to stick around with "his" woman, getting sex and providing for offspring. So the best strategy for a woman is a mixed strategy: get laid when fertile with an alpha male, but convince the beta male, by frequent sex when not fertile, that the kid is his.

So this apparently "minor" change in humans from other primates, the concealing of fertility, has major and wide-ranging effects on the entire composition of human society: it paves the way for pair-bonding, families and tribes (to enforce, among other things, fidelity), child nurturing by both parents, and division of labor based on sex, but also paves the way for jealously, lying, infidelity, and fratricide.

Re:Humans are lucky... (2, Interesting)

liquidpele (663430) | about 10 years ago | (#9550280)

I don't know about women prefering LESS masculine men..

It seems to me that it's just that they don't care much when they are not fertile, and so their good judgment kicks in and they can think logically about it. When they are fertile, their hormones overpower and they want the good genes...

Women don't know when they're fertile? BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9550330)

I certainly don't need a lab test to know when my period is coming. Just because women apparently conceal from you when they're menstruating that doesn't mean that we don't know.

Re:Women don't know when they're fertile? BS (4, Informative)

orthogonal (588627) | about 10 years ago | (#9550544)

I certainly don't need a lab test to know when my period is coming. Just because women apparently conceal from you when they're menstruating that doesn't mean that we don't know.

Yes, but ovulation is not menstruation (getting one's "period"). Ovulation occurs about fourteen days before menstruation, and the period of fertility is some period of time a up to five days before ovulation and one to two days after ("fertile" days can occur before actual ovulation because sperm can live inside a woman for up to a week).

While menstruation pretty reliably occurs fourteen days after ovulation, the time between menstruation and the next ovulation tends to vary much more.

So while your menstruation is pretty obvious, it gives you little idea of when you'll next be fertile.

And while some women feel a characteristic pain when ovulation occurs ("Mittelschmerz", German for "middle pain"), because of the varying time between menstruation and ovulation and the ability of sperm to live inside the women, it's entirely possible even for that minority of women who experience Mittelschmerz to become pregnant from sex after menstruation but before ovulation and the warning pain of Mittelschmerz.

You do know what the technical medical term for a woman who relies on the "rhythm method" of contraception is?

"Mother".

booorrrrrrinnnnnnggggg (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9550351)

Yawn. Another 'scientific' theory that relies on the social prejudice that humans are all inherently monogamous heterosexual carnivores. Reality is likely to be a little more complex.

Re:Humans are lucky... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9550356)

charming.. i'll have to use that one next time i'm over at applebee's trying to pick up chicks

Re:Humans are lucky... (3, Insightful)

electroniceric (468976) | about 10 years ago | (#9550524)

I hate to be contentious, but could you cite some sources on this?

One of the things that drives me nuts about evolutionary biology is the constant invocation of "when we were cave men", the supposed activities that humans undertook, and the supposed division of these roles. I would be hard pressed to believe that the minimal fossil and other records that exist over the time spans can give the kind of details necessary to validate this explanation. If I'm incorrect, please point me to these records, and I'll happily reconsider this assertion.

AFAICT, the whole business of evolutionary biology is to create a logical explanation for various perceptions about human behavior. For example, you are building a logical framework for your perception that dudes like sex more than chicks. But there are scarcely even clear records now that indicate whether on average men or women "want sex more" (or whether the mean is a properly representative statistic). A thorough explanation must obviously consider the role of reporting of desire, and to do this you must consider the long-term socialization of women to be less direct about their sexuality (which is well documented). Doesn't that go a long way in modifying or obscuring any biological phenomena that might exist? And what about the tremendously varying levels of sexual desire observed among men as well as among women (e.g., Match.com thought this important enough to include in their personality profile test for matches).

I see the researchers in the article undertaking much of this same assumption:
By manipulating the odds of getting the drink and the size of the drink, he has shown that the rate at which these neurons fire is proportionate to the expected utility of the juice payoff. The implication is electrifying, especially to economists: an abstract, mathematically derived formula appears to be literally hard-wired into the primate brain.

Leaving aside the brilliance of being able to detect a single neuron firing, he made a plot of how often the neuron fired versus some external parameter that he then varied. Great science. He then inferred a mathemetical relationship governing the relationship between the parameter and the firing of the neuron and presumably fit that plot to estimate how well the data were represented by the equation he chose. Also well done science. But to then claim that the logical conclusion is that this relationship is "hard wired" into the monkey's brain is wildly speculative, sort of like measuring the probability that I will ride my bike today versus the dollars I could make doing it, and concluding that I have an economic equation hard-wired into my brain. This negates both free will and any subtlety. What if I just don't feel like riding today?

The brain scanning stuff is obviously a young field, so it's understandable that people want to advance theories to explain all this new stuff they're seeing, but it'd be nice to see a clearer representation of what the research says and what the research think might explain it.

Re:Humans are lucky... (3, Insightful)

b-baggins (610215) | about 10 years ago | (#9550532)

Which, of course explains completely why so many men stay faithful to their wives after child-bearing years even though the men are still virile.

It also completely explains why men remain faithful to barren women.

This load of crap is nothing more than the ranting of some social evolutionist who believes that humans are driven by nothing more than instinct and so tries to come up with some biological mechanism to explain why human men marry human women.

Re:Humans are lucky... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9550655)

It also 'explains' why my sister-in-law and her
husband adopted two un-related infants from
another ethnic group from the other side of
the world.

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xxAA Funded? (-1, Offtopic)

z0ink (572154) | about 10 years ago | (#9549674)

1. Study the common economic patterns of the mind
2. ??
3. Profit

You must understand how the mind works in order to control it. Who better to control the minds of the youth of the world other than RIAA/MPAA! Their smash new hit by "Some Pop GrouP" was number 1 on the charts for 3 years. Why? Listen to it and you'll find out.

Two things... (5, Interesting)

ifwm (687373) | about 10 years ago | (#9549685)

First, why do researchers assume that blood flow and glucose use equals proof of thought patterns? Now, there may be a correlation, but as my research methods professor loved to say "correlation does not equal causation"

Second, juice may not get him. but cocaine will. I saw a study that showed a monkey will give up everything, including food and sex, for cocaine.

Re:Two things... (5, Interesting)

glueball (232492) | about 10 years ago | (#9549788)

The BOLD theory, that's why. Blood Oxygenation Level Detection. You are not measuring glucose directly, you are measuring a spin-able for of hemoglobin that is in the state of giving up oxygen. Oxygen is thought to be used in glucose metabolism. Metabolism is thought to be a sign of life. FMRI measures the amount of hemoglobin. The interesting data comes from measuring *changes* in the amount of hemoglobin utilization.

One can see motor movements in the brain. I tell you to move your finger (or think about moving your finger ) and I can see in the brain the area that: hears me say "move your finger" then the language area that interprets "move your finger" and the pre-motor area firing, then the motor area firing.

There are a million tests that can be given in the MR scanner. Some of them can be really funny.

Examples on request.

Re:Two things... (1)

Flaming Foobar (597181) | about 10 years ago | (#9549830)

Examples on request.

So what are you waiting for?

Obl. Duke Nukem ... (1)

zonix (592337) | about 10 years ago | (#9550115)

So what are you waiting for?

Christmas?

z

Re:Two things... (5, Interesting)

glueball (232492) | about 10 years ago | (#9550166)

First I met someone at a FMRI scanner. It turns out that she became my wife.

Second test: Stroop. Never seen so many smart people get so frustrated. A word is presented: "RED" It is written in green ink. What color is the ink? Then, just as you get the hang of it, what is the word?

Third: Nicotine addictions. Drop a bolus of nicotine into a willing research subject. I've heard "That's better than sex" to "Ohhhhhhh" to "I think I wet myself"

More later.

Re:Two things... (1)

PD (9577) | about 10 years ago | (#9550520)

For some, a magnetic attraction is inevitable.

Re:Two things... (1)

cmay666 (202732) | about 10 years ago | (#9550198)

Request! Neurologists are a creative bunch...I want to hear some of the stranger tests... :)

Re:Two things... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9549791)

I for one, am sick of this "correlation does not equal causation" crap. Basically you can't prove anything happens in this universe, because we can only observe cause and effect.

But, yes, glucose consumption should actually be related to brain function, because it takes glucose to run the brain, and the harder it's working (more complex thought), the more glucose it needs to operate.

Food for thought, maybe?

I know none of us here at /. understand the parallels to muscle use and glucose use... too much glucose in, no muscle use. Which may actually show why some of the real thinkers are still so skinny.

random ramblings. caffein is starting to take effect but not enough sugar in my system to make it useful...

Re:Two things... (5, Insightful)

Life2Short (593815) | about 10 years ago | (#9549963)

What if you had to figure out how a computer worked just by looking at how much electricity was being consumed by the various components? You would know something about the various components involved with specific tasks, but you wouldn't understand what was going on in the components themselves or how they work. Some are processing, some are storing, some are pathways, etc. I think this was the point of the original post. fMRI can tell us about what areas might be active, but we still have a long way to go to figure out how the brain works in detail.

Re:Two things... (0)

rel4x (783238) | about 10 years ago | (#9549795)

The monkey probably just wanted the cocaine so he could sell it, so he could buy MORE food and sex. Or maybe get the chimpettes a little messed up, so he could get sex, then steal their food. Smart chimp. Bah.

Ummm.. Jesus (1)

oliverthered (187439) | about 10 years ago | (#9549805)

Because when you cut those bits out of your head, (Yep we have the Nazis to thank) the functionality relates to the energy burnt.

cocaine (1)

oliverthered (187439) | about 10 years ago | (#9549819)

Even a trained monkey, could we use this to develop better rehab. Some people who've given up coke before know how to do it again, and don't get re-hooked.

Re:Two things... (1)

Flaming Foobar (597181) | about 10 years ago | (#9549820)

First, why do researchers assume that blood flow and glucose use equals proof of thought patterns? Now, there may be a correlation, but as my research methods professor loved to say "correlation does not equal causation"

Doesn't correlation by definition mean that something is only seemingly related? The term would not be used if the cause-effect relationship was known. I don't think anyone in their right mind reads these studies as the ultimate truth. It's just interesting phenomena that can't be explained with chance alone.

Re:Two things... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9549984)

First off, the article butchers fMRI. Part of my day is spent doing functional stuff. You don't watch the blood flow -- you look for changes in blood oxygenation level.

Next take a patient in an fMRI study. A very typical normalization task is to simply use a soft brush to rub say the left hand. Neuroanatomists have known for pushing a hundred years where in the brain (specifically where on the humonculus) this will be registered. (By reverse engineering: damage to some part of the brain leaves the patient insensitive.) Even trivial analysis of the fMRI results will show activation in the appropriate area.

On a more fundamental level, there is no causation EVER. Any first year graduate student in physics can tell you that. At the micro-scale all things are probabilistic. At the macro-scale the incoherence of things across the micro-scale leads to well defined and narrow probability distributions further leading to the illusion of concrete objects. The very idea that "causation" exists is due to the completeness of the illusion and the underlying incoherency.

Re:Two things... (1)

BerntB (584621) | about 10 years ago | (#9549994)

First, why do researchers assume that blood flow and glucose use equals proof of thought patterns?
Why do Americans reading a popular description of research assume that the researchers are idiots &&/|| in a conspiracy?? :-)

As another comment said, there are of course lots of other data not mentioned in the popular article -- and a technical motivation (energy use correlates with blood flow).

juice may not get him. but cocaine will.
I don't know much about cocaine, but most drugs stimulate the brain reward mechanism directly. So of course some drugs stimulate the same reward system as sex -- but more.

Thanks for the info, anyway -- I'll try cocaine iff I get terminal cancer! :-)

Re:Two things... (4, Informative)

Dr_Emory (181130) | about 10 years ago | (#9550144)

This is an excellent point, and one of the most challenging problems with fMRI and other "functional neuroimaging" methods. BOLD-fMRI (Blood Oxygen Level Dependent) relies on the fact that oxyhemoglobin is dimagnetic and deoxyhemoglobin is paramagnetic (a very interesting fact that was discovered in the 1950s by no other than Linus Pauling . . .), which means that oxygenated blood can be made to look "brighter" using certain MRI techniqies. The theoretical steps from neuronal activity to BOLD signal are this:

1. Neurons fire
2. Transient decrease of blood oxygen in that area due to increased use
3. Compensatory regional increase in blood flow causes increase in blood oxygen.
4. Miracle occurs / Change in concentration in oxygen imaged with MRI and bright "blobs" superimposed over structural image.

Many problems with this technique, and many assumptions that must be made. Just a few:
1. We assume that there is a consistent time course to these steps. During image processing, the blood oxygen vs. time curve is usually assumed to follow a particular theoretical model all over the brain. Problem is, maybe the compensatory increase in oxygenation is much slower in some areas of the brain than it is in others.
2. We have very little idea what it means that we see increased or decreased "activity" in an area, particularly when comparing normal and diseased conditions. Perhaps some areas of the brain are "always on" and there is no clear contrast between that condition and a "working" condition, therefore they NEVER appear to be activated by fMRI. Maybe the area of increased activity represents a "downstream effect" of activity in another area? Does increased activity suggest better function (e.g. more blood = gasoline to the engine = higher speed) or worse (less efficient engine = more gasoline to engine = same speed at higher cost).

Despite these problems, fMRI is damn cool because you really can "see someone think", which is a relatively new scientific development. The technology will get better, and eventually we'll get closer to the actual neurons, in terms of taking pictures of real neuronal activation instead of a blood oxygen proxy four or five physiological steps away. Anyhow, cool stuff.

Re:Two things... (2, Interesting)

hsoom (680862) | about 10 years ago | (#9550239)

Second, juice may not get him. but cocaine will. I saw a study that showed a monkey will give up everything, including food and sex, for cocaine.

True, I've read about a similar experiment with a monkey. The experiment with the monkey is a crude measurement of how addictive a substance is. Basically the monkey has to press a button a certain number of times to get a hit of some substance. Each time the monkey gets a hit it must make more presses than the previous time. By the end of the experiment the monkey was pressing the button more than 13,000 times for a single hit of cocaine. This is far above any other drug.

Rationality and expected value (4, Interesting)

PornMaster (749461) | about 10 years ago | (#9549686)

I'm not sure that monkeys know the difference, but when I consider chance in a wagering-like fashion, I tend to consider whether or not something will really change my life for more than just the short-term.

Dropping $20 on an array of Mega Millions tickets is mathematically irrational, but with or without that $20, my life for the next two weeks will be about the same. If I were to win, however, even the second-best prize, it would enable me to purchase a nice house.

When it's a matter of playing a game where the expected value of my dollar is $0.95, but I'm more likely to win $2 or $3, why bother? But even if the expected value of my dollar is $0.75 or less with a prize of many million and many over $100k, despite the miniscule chances of winning, it would change my life.

Of course, if I had an expected value of $1.05 for my dollar, I'm smart enough to play consistently even if my dollar only wins a little at a time.

-PM

Re:Rationality and expected value (3, Interesting)

makomk (752139) | about 10 years ago | (#9549718)

In game theory, there's one model that states that people choose based on the expected value to them of the outcome. Losing $1 doesn't have much effect on you, but the value to you of winning $1million is huge, so it makes semse to gamble.

This isn't strictly relevant, but has anyone figured out why most people get the probablities wrong in Don't Get The Goat [grand-illusions.com] (no relation to goatse). Even intelligent people often get it wrong. I remember spending ages trying to explain it to an intelligent person with good maths skills - and they still didn't understand.

Re:Rationality and expected value (2, Insightful)

Eccles (932) | about 10 years ago | (#9550546)

One of the better ways to convince people of this is to take it to the extreme; say 1 million doors, and I'll open all but one other door than the one you chose.

Even then you still get some people thinking that suddenly they had a 50/50 shot of picking the right door on the first go...

Re:Rationality and expected value (5, Insightful)

glyph42 (315631) | about 10 years ago | (#9549743)

Dropping $20 into a nice, juicy retirement savings plan every two weeks is guaranteed to change your life. Take your lottery tickets, and whatever other impulse purchases you can identify, and divert the money into savings. Why bother gambling? You'll thank yourself many times over when you're older.

Re:Rationality and expected value (0)

Takeel (155086) | about 10 years ago | (#9549918)

Please don't forget that sometimes it's just fun to spend a dollar on a lottery ticket.

My girlfriend and I bought a Mega Millions ticket last week and spent a while being silly and laughed about what we'd do "when we won". Hell, getting the chance to share a silly experience and a laugh with my lady was worth the buck.

sometimes it's just fun to spend a dollar on a... (1)

dpilot (134227) | about 10 years ago | (#9550334)

Then that's a different reason for spending the dollar. It's from the 'fun' budget instead of the 'investment' budget.

A few years back, I took my son to visit my sister in Utah. There was a stopover of a few hours in Vegas, so I budgeted some 'fun' money to play the one-arm bandits at the airport, with the anticipated result of losing it all. I was disappointed in the machines, because there was no feel to the lever, no inertia, no clutch engaging a flywheel, nothing. So after a few minutes of play I was up $10 and bored, so I decided to quit. It took me a few minutes and some loss to figure out how to quit, but I was still ahead when I finally cashed out. Sometimes fun can pay, I guess. I still like the fact that I beat the odds in Vegas.

Re:Rationality and expected value (1)

neoRUR (674398) | about 10 years ago | (#9550177)

You can also view this as a high risk investment, over the term of the lottery investment your gains may be close to zero, but once and ahwile they might pay off. But you should also diversify in 401K's and whatnot.

Reminds me of that saying... (1, Insightful)

SeanDuggan (732224) | about 10 years ago | (#9550125)

A lottery is a tax on people who can't do math.

Re:Rationality and expected value (1)

3seas (184403) | about 10 years ago | (#9550136)

Ah, yeah... thanks for reminding me that the lotto here in Georgia (or one of them I can buy tickets here) is up over 200 million...

Time to buy some tickets....otherwise I ignore the lotto...

Yet I know playing blackjack has better odds of my winning, if I'm going to gamble....

Insufficient juice (5, Funny)

kahei (466208) | about 10 years ago | (#9549710)

there is no quantity of juice sufficient

Oh really? I bet they only tried 'reasonable' amounts of juice. They can't be sure unless they try an infinite amount of juice -- or rather, an amount of juice so unfeasibly preposterously gigantic that the monkey is simply nable to comprehend it, so that changes in the juice quantity no longer have any effect. When they use that much juice, I'll take remarks like the above seriously

Disclaimer: I am only writing this because I am thirsty and like thinking about juice.

Re:Insufficient juice (2, Funny)

Life2Short (593815) | about 10 years ago | (#9549836)

What I don't understand is why you would need fMRI to figure out that they find hindquarters more interesting than juice?

what advertisers won't do (4, Insightful)

millahtime (710421) | about 10 years ago | (#9549720)

OK, so say they find out how the brain works in this way. Who is going to use it, advertisers. If they could use drungs or subliminal things they would. Now what, my girlfriend will want to shop more. Now, they will get me to buy more useless things.

Someone please tell me how this is going to help me?

Re:what advertisers won't do (1)

spellraiser (764337) | about 10 years ago | (#9550027)

Yup, of course advertisers will use this stuff. Here's proof from the article:

... The implication is electrifying, especially to economists: an abstract, mathematically derived formula appears to be literally hard-wired into the primate brain.

And that, in turn, is a step toward the holy grail of marketing: being able to figure out how people will make choices that haven't been offered yet. The same tools that can answer deep questions about primate behavior can also be used to get people to sign up for more cell-phone minutes than there actually are in a month. A handful of researchers in the United States and Europe are already using fMRIs to test how product brands are represented in the brain. The goal of every consumer marketer is to have people "identify" with a brand, to develop the kind of loyalty that goes far beyond a utilitarian preference for, say, one kind of pickup truck over another. Emory University psychologist Clint Kilts scanned subjects as they looked at a variety of products, from cars to soft drinks, and found that this sense of brand identification elicited a strong response in the medial prefrontal cortex. This is the brain area associated with what psychologists call the "sense of self," one's self-constructed identity. His insights are now being offered to the corporations of the world through the BrightHouse Neurostrategies Group in Atlanta, a pioneer in the emerging field of neuromarketing.

Neuromarketing, huh? Whee - there's even a name for this field. I think this is quite creepy; it often seems to me that the bulk of psychological research is centered on advertising, i.e. on the pragmatic goal of manipulating people's choices. Where's the good ol' interest in knowledge for knowledge's sake? And what about actually trying to help people better themselves and finding cures for psychological disorders? If my ever-growing fear that money is the major influence in modern psychology is correct, it's an absolute tragedy that needs immediate correction.

Re:what advertisers won't do (1)

Znork (31774) | about 10 years ago | (#9550643)

"And that, in turn, is a step toward the holy grail of marketing: being able to figure out how people will make choices that haven't been offered yet."

Except, of course, the slight problem that even if you can measure the result on a single neuron in a single primate, the brain is so horrendously complex that it will be an entirely different neuron firing at a different rate in an individual with a slightly different life experience.

Unless the idea is to have monitors surgically implanted into the entire customer base, it makes no more sense than having test groups. Which is probably cheaper.

Re:what advertisers won't do (2, Interesting)

NoData (9132) | about 10 years ago | (#9550570)

Someone please tell me how this is going to help me?

This is a fair question. I'm in one of the labs mentioned in this article, so I'll try giving it a shot.

Most basic research is often a number of steps removed from applicability. Most non-scientists do not think research is useful unless it has clear applicability. One could make the subtle argument that an increase in human knowledge, especially an increase in knowledge about ourselves, is an intrinsic good and elevates us as a society. I'm not going to make this argument alone, but I would like to throw it out as one "pre-emptive" rationale.

One could argue that that glue of human behavior is decision-making. Every voluntary action is preceded with a decision to make that action. The decisions we make determine much of the course of our lives, and the amalgam of decisions determine the course of society. It's therefore in our interest to undetstand the basis of decision making. That basis is a neural one, as the decisions you make are the result of an interplay of mechanisms in your head.

Many decisions we make are flawed. Decision-researchers (like Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman) have demonstrated that we often fail to make rational choices, and that these failures are systematic. This is counter to the standard economic model of decision-making which assumes that players in a market are rational actors seeking to maximize their interests. If this is not true, then standard economic models are not taking the realities of human psychology into account. In aggregate, these irrational choices and persistent failures to account for them may have massive impact on economies. We are now in a position to actually elucidate not only the systematicity of our irrationalities, but also their very basis in the brain: to understand actually what specialized neural subsystems color and bias our decisions. Hopefully, one future result will be a more accurate (if less precise) calculus of decision making.

The potential for clinical impact is also tremendous. One of the chief burdens of most psychopathologies is a profound impairment in decision-making. Schizophrenics, autistics, sociopaths, anxiety and OCD patients, attention-deficit patients, depressives...literally any psychopathology you name has as one hallmark a particular sort of failure in the decisions made by patients. The flaw may be different in each, of course: e.g., autistics fail to consider the mental state of others in making their choices, schizophrenics may perseverate on a type of decision, while phobics greatly overestimate the impact of a particular alternative in certain choices. Nevertheless, knowing just this has very limited chance for helping us come up with effective therapies. Unless we understand how the "normal" brain makes decisions (what systems, what mechanisms, what areas, what neurochemistry), we will have very little to say about how to fix it when things go wrong. As it is, much psychopharmacology is a guessing game. We know (often by serendipity) that certain drugs are effective in certain in clinical conditions, but for many we still have very, very little understanding as to why the drugs are effective or even how they work.

Finally, you say that this sort of research is ripe for abuse by advertisers. Well, all knowledge is subject to abuse. But, in point of fact, this sort of research could be a huge boon for both consumers and advertisers (or at least for corporations that adverstise) alike. Advertising is, on the whole, annoying to consumers (I call us "consumers" because we're in a commercial context here). The dominant model of advertising is saturation: The more impressions a brand makes on you, the better. This is a very simplisitic model that is grossly ignorant of human psychology and neuroscience. It is true that companies see an uptick in sales after an advertising "barrage," but this completely ignores the infringement and frustration most of us feel being bombarded with images and force-fed advertising messages everywhere. Do the gains in sales outweigh the loss of goodwill? Could an equal gain in sales and brand awareness be had without a concommitant increase in resentment? A consumer that shops your sale because they know about it, but hate how they found out about it, is unlikely to be a loyal customer. Companies don't want us to hate them. They want our loyalty. How can they earn that? Is the current model of advertising the best one? Does naked appeal to our basest drives (sex, power, etc.) really work, or is it obvious, insulting to consumer intellect, and superficial in its effectiveness? Understanding how preference, loyalty, and choice are represented neurally can help address these issues. There's a group in Atlanta called Brighthouse that is pursuing this direction. They are trying to demonstrate to corporations that it is in their interest to invest in and implement basic research in human preference. Corporations ought to change the way their messages to consumers are sent to be more in line with the way we would like to receive them. Like the current article, a lot of this and other "neuroeconomic" or "neuromarketing" work has been misrepresented by the press to make it look like scientists are trying to give corporations the "keys to the kingdom" of the mind: to make us do and buy what they want and not what we want. That's just rank sensationalism. It's bad science, bad journalism, and completely insults the complexity of human decision-making, which is EXACTLY what us scientists are trying to demomstrate.

Anyway, that was probably a lot longer answer than you anticipated. Hope it helps.

Ask my ex-wives (4, Funny)

bmiller949 (681252) | about 10 years ago | (#9549739)

According to the them, science has it wrong. They should be scanning my posterior instead of my head. Since I married them, I would agree.

Retirement... (2, Funny)

MisanthropicProgram (763655) | about 10 years ago | (#9549740)

People don't save enough for their retirements because of a phenomenon known as forward discounting: ...

No, it's from not having a job! You insensitive clod!

origin of war (5, Insightful)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 10 years ago | (#9549755)

now imagine TWO male monkeys who can't look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.

Re:origin of war (0)

beders (245558) | about 10 years ago | (#9549987)

now imagine TWO male monkeys who can't look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.

And the origin of pr0n probably...

Re:origin of war (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9550217)

Hell, imagine a Beowulf cluster of ass-obsessed monkeys.

fMRI (5, Informative)

bcaffo (681613) | about 10 years ago | (#9549763)

It's great to see fMRI getting some press, but the article fails to mention some of the important limitations of the technology. The magnitude of the signal is only 1-5% over the noise and comparisons need to be made at thousands of locations. Also only very simple tasks can reasonably be studied. Regardless, the technology has great promise in medical applications. I am currently invovled in a a study where fMRI is accurately distinguishing between patients who are at high risk for AD and controls. As an additional plug, I think quantitative neurology is great area for CS, Math etc types to get involved in.

Re:fMRI (0)

Anonymous Writer (746272) | about 10 years ago | (#9549960)

It's great to see fMRI getting some press

Yes. And thanks to the way this story was written, fMRI will always remind me of the hindquarters of a female monkey in estrus.

Perils of an incomplete model (4, Insightful)

Alien54 (180860) | about 10 years ago | (#9549767)

of course, the dynamics of the situation involve the potential payoffs of interacting with human society.

The only category of people who consistently play as game theory dictates, offering the minimum possible amount, are those who don't take into account the feelings of the other player. They are autistics.

Note that humans are thus called irrational, when in fact the game theory models is deficient, leaving out all of the factors that normal people use when making human decisions.

maybe they should have used MS marketing droids

:P

Re:Perils of an incomplete model (0)

Jarnis (266190) | about 10 years ago | (#9549801)

Humans are Illogical, as Mr. Spock would put it.

I tend to agree.

Re:Perils of an incomplete model (1)

Alien54 (180860) | about 10 years ago | (#9549975)

Humans are Illogical, as Mr. Spock would put it. I tend to agree.

only because the other factors which enter into the equation are not always sensible. But Human logic is not merely based on simple game theory factors.

Re:Perils of an incomplete model (1)

BerntB (584621) | about 10 years ago | (#9550034)

But Human logic is not merely based on simple game theory factors.
True, it seems to be based on truly complex game theory factors.

Re:Perils of an incomplete model (2, Interesting)

Pendersempai (625351) | about 10 years ago | (#9550297)

Game theory doesn't seek to predict human decisions -- it's interested in the fabled "rational actor." Game theory is about optimizing in a game setting, much like multi-variable calc is (sometimes) about finding the highest point of a surface.

It's economics, not game theory, that assumes human rationality. In 90% of circumstances, that assumption accurately predicts behavior. It's the other 10% when tribal mentalities (including trust, disgust, vengeance, anger, jealousy, etc.) all kick in that the axioms need to be reexamined.

Re:Perils of an incomplete model (1)

TheSync (5291) | about 10 years ago | (#9550360)

More importantly, I think one has to keep in mind that people are rational actors given their experience and organic motivations, not just money. Drugs and sex are potent motivators, and people rationally seek them out! And if you don't know about compound interest, you won't invest.

Re:Perils of an incomplete model (2, Insightful)

dekeji (784080) | about 10 years ago | (#9550474)

Note that humans are thus called irrational, when in fact the game theory models is deficient, leaving out all of the factors that normal people use when making human decisions.

That use of the term "irrational" comes from economists, who started using it before it even dawned on them that social and other psychological rewards and concerns may be valuable as well. And many economists haven't figured it out to this day.

Biologists realized the rationality of emotions and their importance for survival much earlier.

Sausage! (-1, Offtopic)

mazarin5 (309432) | about 10 years ago | (#9549771)

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/06/2 8/0046201&mode=thread&tid=134&tid=141&tid= 188

Dirty Little Monkey! (-1, Troll)

turgid (580780) | about 10 years ago | (#9549779)

Give it a good spanking. That will soon stop it.

Cheaper version of this research (5, Funny)

rel4x (783238) | about 10 years ago | (#9549782)

I can do this research for about $0.
How many people here enjoy Hustler or Playboy?
ok, now how many enjoy "Big juice box weekly"?
What if they added more juice?
even more?
Case closed.

Re:Cheaper version of this research (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9549862)

I've seen Hustler and Playboy ... Big Juicy Box weekly sounds even more hardcore so is next on list, particularly the foil sealed section.

More juice than the standard Big Juicy Box, now thats really where its at.

More juice again, now your being sick. Noone's going to believe that you can put that much juice in no matter how big the big juicy box is.

Re:Cheaper version of this research (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Writer (746272) | about 10 years ago | (#9550001)

ok, now how many enjoy "Big juice box weekly"?

"Big Juice box weekly" sounds like the title of a porn mag, actually.

Re:Cheaper version of this research (3, Interesting)

liquidpele (663430) | about 10 years ago | (#9550302)

Interestingly, with humans you can find people that would rather read about big juice boxes.

Think religious people, etc. The whole free will and concious thing comes into play, eh?

Re:Cheaper version of this research (1)

corodon (792258) | about 10 years ago | (#9550417)

Hmm. Is the Big Juice Box in estrus?

Hey smart guy (4, Insightful)

Illserve (56215) | about 10 years ago | (#9550598)

Try running this experiment on people who haven't had anything to drink for 12 hours and see how it turns out :)

Yet another beautiful experiment runs headlong into the brutal facts.

Re:Cheaper version of this research (2, Insightful)

b-baggins (610215) | about 10 years ago | (#9550625)

You said it as a joke, but it is significant. There is a percentage of humans who find playboy or hustler offensive and will NOT look at it for whatever reason (offense at exploitation of women, religious morality, etc.)

The point is that human beings can consciously choose to restrain their sexual impulses which makes humans unique in the animal kingdom. And which also makes this study pretty much irrelevant. You may be able to find ways to exploit people who have totally given in to their sexual desires, but you will be completely ineffective against people who choose to control or restrain their sexual appetites.

Re:Cheaper version of this research (1)

Illserve (56215) | about 10 years ago | (#9550679)

I'm sure monkeys could be trained to do this too. Deprive them of water long enough and you can get them to do anything.

Everyone has their price.

'there is no quantity of juice sufficient' (4, Interesting)

oliverthered (187439) | about 10 years ago | (#9549790)

What even if the monkey hasn't had anything to drink for the past week (well maybe day or two, I don't tnik it could do anything after a week).

What to do with this info! (5, Funny)

rel4x (783238) | about 10 years ago | (#9549806)

Oo! I've thought of what to do with this information. We can start using sex to sell things, like juice! I wonder why no one has thought of it before!

Re:What to do with this info! (0)

Sir_Limps_a_lot (790892) | about 10 years ago | (#9549972)

But, that would work only if the female monkey in the ad was in estrus.

Trust? (5, Insightful)

MisanthropicProgram (763655) | about 10 years ago | (#9549813)

"If we knew what creates trust and could intervene to encourage it, we could do a lot of good for the world," says Camerer.

No, it would be used to get people to "trust" a corp. or Government, so that they buy more shit or follow mindlessly the politicians. Because, only the corps or gov'ts would have the money to afford such a procedure.

Re:Trust? (0)

TheLoneCabbage (323135) | about 10 years ago | (#9549951)

Wow somebody didn't get their oxytocin this morning!

Re:Trust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9550286)

Alternatively the results may show that to be trusted more the cooperations and goverments should betray the trust less oftently, and such.

Quickshot

Note to self: (-1, Offtopic)

TheLoneCabbage (323135) | about 10 years ago | (#9549840)

Stop folowing the news for pressidentail monkeys.

Watch more femail monkeys...

YuO Fail It! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9549909)

40,000 cOMING [goat.cx]

I'm doing just fine... (3, Funny)

cpthowdy (609034) | about 10 years ago | (#9549991)

with my "Jump To Conclusions" mat. Good enough for all of life's decisions!

Bittorrent and game theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9550094)

The whole investment game thing is a lot like what happened when BitTorrent came out. Some people hacked the client to not upload. Of course, if everyone did this then the network would not function. So the standard client program retaliates against people who do this by not sending them pieces. But following a strict strategy of "I'll only give you a piece if you give me one" is equally bad because if everyone did that, then no one would ever get anything. So most will give an initial piece without having received anything. And the general result is that the optimal strategy is to aim for a 1:1 ratio (you get $5 and I get $5) and to risk losing the initial investment ($10) rather than risk ending up with nothing because no one will play.

trying to figure out what the EU is thinking.... (2, Informative)

recharged95 (782975) | about 10 years ago | (#9550108)

I remember doing computer simulations with researchers that used this concept 10yrs ago for addiction research *on humans*. Wasn't accurate compared to PET scanning with EEG biofeedback. I guess technologies likely gotten better, but the problem in this [we discovered] was getting a true mesaure of blood flow: it's pretty much a multi-body problem, more of a 6-body problem (blood flow rate, direction, glucose metabolism rate, type of brain matter, etc...). Simulations only go so far since most models represent a biased view (i.e. theory). Funny how it's already difficult and even impossible to solve a typical 3-body problem to the precision these guys are suggesting--I would be interested to see the details on their accuracy/precision criteria.

In the end, what value does this offer? Sounds like more of the same topic of controlling us lemmings in the long run. Or maybe M$ (heck MSNBC reported it) is looking for a way to persuade the EU...

Consciousness Theory (5, Interesting)

fishing (206255) | about 10 years ago | (#9550138)

Anyone interested in theories of consciousness and how they might relate to artificial neural networks, you may want to check out "Radiant Cool" by Dan Lloyd.
In this book he uses multi-dimensional scaling analysis of fMRI scans to predict past and future states of the same brain, as well as doing the same thing with artificial networks.
It then uses the evidence from this research to propose what (to me, at least) is the first really solid explanation for what consciousness may actually "be".
The book is written in 2 parts... the first one is a detective novel where the main character is a Phenomenologist and in the process of solving a murder finds a theory of consciousness. The 2nd part of the book is a factual appendix describing the work.
Awesome stuff, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in neural nets and AI.

love-hate relationship of Science and Media (5, Interesting)

abde (136025) | about 10 years ago | (#9550246)

articles like this are especially frustrating to MRI physics geeks like me, because there's a delicate balance bwteen wanting the media to help promote science, and watching helplessly as they mangle it into pure science fiction. The BOLD effect by which fMRI observes brain activity is orders of magnitude removed from the sensitivity of indivdual neuron measurements, and as other commentators have pointed out there's a real limit on what you can expect to understand about human thought processes using that tool.

I've actually started a blog devoted to megnetoic resonance imaging (http://refscan.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] and would like to invite anyone else interested in MRI to visit and comment. Our patron Saint is Magneto :)

Now thats what I call a magnet (3, Informative)

slimak (593319) | about 10 years ago | (#9550343)

On a related note, check out the 9.4 T [uic.edu] (9.4 T link off to side) scanner at UIC. AFAIK it is the largest (in sense of the static -- B0 -- field) system that is capable of imaging a human. Other stronger magnets exist (such as 14 T), but they have much smaller bores that limit the size of the object being imaged to about the size of a mouse. I believe that they have this beast up at field now and are currently building the gradients for it.

Should be interesting to see what its capable of, and if anyone is willing to go inside (considering the strength)!

Nothing to see here... (4, Informative)

nine-times (778537) | about 10 years ago | (#9550370)

This is yet another case of scientists "discovering" what philosophers had known thousands of years ago. A quote from the article:

"the Platonic metaphor of the mind as a charioteer driving twin horses of reason and emotion is on the right track--except that cognition is a smart pony, and emotion a big elephant."

The only thing is, this is basically what the Platonic metaphor says- reason is a weak little horse that doesn't do much of anything, and passion is a wild, kicking, biting stallion that moves the whole thing wherever it wants. The pony/elephant distinction doesn't add anything to the metaphor. Don't get me wrong- the technology is neat and all, and the article might have been worth it for news on technology. But 'humans are irrational'? Is that really news to anyone?

Anyone else noticed... (1)

Jage (164751) | about 10 years ago | (#9550387)

that the side box of the article [msn.com] says...
  • Mind Reading
  • Microsoft's Cultural Revolution
  • Levy: The Trouble With E-Ballots
  • Something in the Air
  • Your Next Computer

I hope those topics aren't related...

I'm Not As Much Of A Man As A Monkey (4, Insightful)

bfg9000 (726447) | about 10 years ago | (#9550401)

... there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female

Don't offer juice, offer a chance for a First Post modded up to +5, Insightful. Trust me, I have to beat the women off with a stick to get to my keyboard in time. Slashdot is my juice and I'm swimming in an ocean of it, baby.

stories (1)

duffbeer (114852) | about 10 years ago | (#9550611)

The slashdot scan is outstanding this morning.

"Best quote on economic choice: '... there is no quantity of juice sufficient to get a male monkey to look away from the hindquarters of a female in estrus.'"

then

Science: Drilling Under the Sea

ugh. is it really monday?

And in the end, the reporter was an ass (2)

mveloso (325617) | about 10 years ago | (#9550657)

How about that for morality and ethics in the world of reporters?

"I reasoned that a man would have been just as competitive as I am, and guessed that I was going to betray him on the ninth round--so he would have kept all $30 to himself on the eighth round. At least, most of the ones I know would have, although maybe a sample consisting mostly of journalists isn't entirely representative."

These tests would be an excellent way to see the norms inside each profession. This sort of attitude is the same one routinely lambasted by the press, but in the context of business people. If the CEO of a company had said that he'd be a heartless capitalist. But it turns out that he's not heartless, the reporter is just jealous.

How about that, folks?

Well, That Sure Is A Lot Of Juice (1, Funny)

notcreative (623238) | about 10 years ago | (#9550669)

Wait, what kind of juice is it?
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