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Caltech: Gain and loss in optimistic versus pessimistic brains
Date:8/4/2010

from trial to trial. In one trial, for example, success might net the participant $5, while failure would cause him to lose $1. In another trial, completing the task correctly would earn $1, while failure would cost $5. Alternatively, success and failure might produce an equivalent gain or loss (say, +$5 versus -$5). The subjects were told the stakes in advance of each trial.

Prior to receiving their earnings, the subjects reportedin a post-test questionnairehow they perceived their performance. Interestingly, those perceptions did not correlate with their actual performance; individuals in the group who believed they had performed well were just as likely to have performed poorly, and vice versa for individuals in the group who believed they had done badly.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the pattern of brain activity in the PPC was linked to how well the subjects believed they had done on the tasksthat is, their subjective perception of their performance, rather than their actual performanceas well as by the monetary gain or loss they expected from success or failure.

How hard an individual subject's brain "worked" at the task was dependent upon their personal approach. For example, Andersen says, "subjects who are 'optimists' and believe they are doing well will put out the most effortand exhibit an increase in activity in their PPCwhen they expect to earn a larger reward for being successful." Conversely, those individuals who believe they are doing poorlythe pessimistsshow the most brain activity when there is a higher price for failure.

"They're trying harder to avoid losses and seem to care less about potential gains," Kagan adds.

"This study demonstrates that the process of planning and action is influenced by our subjective, but often incorrect, idea of how well we are doing, as well as by the potential gain or loss," Andersen says. The results suggest that the cortical areas involved in planning actio
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Contact: Kathy Svitil
ksvitil@caltech.edu
626-395-8022
California Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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