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Polezzi, David (2009) Risk and Rationality: Decision-Making in the Brain. [Ph.D. thesis]

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Abstract (english)

Taking decisions that are of advantage is an important survival skill. Classical economic models posit that people should try to maximize their gains and reduce losses, suggesting an idea of a perfectly rational man (Homo Economicus). Practically, people usually behave in manner that is very far from rationality. Employing neuroscience methods, the present thesis will describe a series of experiments that highlights as aspects not strictly related to payoffs affect decision-making. Experiment 1 studied brain activity (with ERPs) during gambling task, showing as decisions’ outcomes are assessed very early (within 250 ms) in terms of predictability and as this assessment is crucial for following decisions. Experiment 2 also employed ERPs, measuring risk-taking across different contexts. Results showed as P300 reflected changes in risk attitude as well as personal differences. Experiment 3 investigated decision making within social context in which people usually shows irrational behaviour. Brain activity show the involvement of theory of mind in this kind of decisions, suggesting that apparently irrational behaviour can be logic in the light of social interaction. Experiment 4 employed fMRI to study economic decision-making in social context, showing as monetary offers are perceived as social communications rather than mere economic divisions. Taken together these studies tried to narrow the gap between formal theory and real economic choice behaviour.

Abstract (italian)

Prendere decisioni vantaggiose è un’ importante abilità. I modelli economici classici sostengono che le persone dovrebbero provare a massimizzare i loro guadagni e a ridurre le perdite, suggerendo un’idea di uomo perfettamente razionale (Homo Economicus). In pratica, le persone si comportano in maniera molto distante dalla razionalità. Usando i metodi delle neuroscienze, la presente tesi descriverà una serie di esperimenti che mettono in luce come aspetti non strettamente legati alla ricompensa monetaria influenzano le decisioni. L’esperimento 1 ha studiato l’attività cerebrale (con gli ERPs) durante un gioco rischioso, mostrando come gli esiti delle decisioni vengano valutati molto presto ( entro 250 msec) in termini di predicibilità e come questa valutazione sia cruciale per le decisioni successive. L’esperimento 2 impiega ancora gli ERPs, misurando la propensione al rischio attraverso i diversi contesti. I risultati hanno mostrato come la P300 rifletta i cambiamenti di propensione al rischio e le differenze personali. L’esperimento 3 ha indagato la presa di decisione in contesti sociali in cui le persone si comportano di solito in maniera irrazionale. L’attività cerebrale mostra un coinvolgimento delle teorie della mente in questo tipo di decisioni, suggerendo che un comportamento apparentemente irrazionale può essere logico alla luce dell’interazione sociale. L’esperimento 4 usa la fMRI per studiare le decisioni economiche in contesti sociali, mostrando come le offerte monetarie siano percepite come comunicazioni sociali piuttosto che come mere suddivisioni economiche. In generale, questi studi cercano di ridurre la distanza fra teorie formali e comportamento di scelta reale.

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EPrint type:Ph.D. thesis
Tutor:Sartori, Giuseppe
Ph.D. course:Ciclo 21 > Scuole per il 21simo ciclo > SCIENZE PSICOLOGICHE > SCIENZE COGNITIVE
Data di deposito della tesi:26 January 2009
Anno di Pubblicazione:January 2009
Key Words:Decision-Making, Brain, ERPs
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 11 - Scienze storiche, filosofiche, pedagogiche e psicologiche > M-PSI/02 Psicobiologia e psicologia fisiologica
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Psicologia dello Sviluppo e della Socializzazione
Codice ID:1415
Depositato il:26 Jan 2009
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