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People With Autism Make Less Emotional Decisions

Posted Oct 21 2008 9:55am

Social psychologists have known for a long time that how you present options heavily influences decisions. In one such study, people had a choice to earn $20, or to gamble for $50 and risk getting nothing. If you frame the “safe” choice as a $30 loss, people are more likely to gamble than if you frame the first choice as a $20 gain, even though this means the same thing [1]. These emotional decisions are accompanied by increased amygdala activity, and stronger activity in the orbitofrontal and medial prefrontal cortices correlated with less susceptibility to the framing effects.

People With Autism Make Less Emotional Decisions

People With Autism Make Less Emotional Decisions

Fifteen high functioning individuals with autism were given the same choices, but were only about half as likely as control participants to be swayed by the framing of the decision [2]. They seemed to be making superior decisions based on their lack of emotional interference. Their brain activity levels were consistent with their performance.

Sounds to me like Wall Street might benefit from consulting some of these participants with autism, and the people who are happily gambling our future away on the bailouts might be well advised to do the same.

1.  De Martino, B., Kumaran, D., Seymour, B., & Dolan, R.J. (2006).  Frames, biases, and rational decision-making in the human brain. Science, 313 (5787), 684-687.

2.  De Martino, B., Harrison, N.A., Knafo, S., Bird, G., & Nolan, R.J. (2008).  Explaining the enhanced logical consistency during decision making in autism. Journal of Neuroscience, 28 (42), 10746-10750.

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