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Kirk, Spock together: Putting emotion, logic into computational words
Date:3/5/2013

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, which uses computational models to understand mental disease

"One key to our experiment was pre-conditioning," said Montague. "One group of subjects adapted to high offers, while another became accustomed to low offers. After this pre-conditioning, the offers for each group shifted suddenly, to identical medium-sized ones, and this opened up the possibility of seeing a connection between feelings and computations."

The researchers discovered that the subjects' feelings about offers tracked a well-defined computation, which they call a norm prediction error. Subjective feelings about offers correlated with these norm prediction errors, and the measured brain responses to feelings and norm prediction errors overlapped substantially.

"In the ultimatum game, you want to show where you stand and what you'll accept," said Montague. "That's Spock. That's the cold, calculating, ledger-balancing function of prospectively encoding the future and controlling people's expectations of you. But a whole host of feelings come along for the ride. You may know you should accept an offer, but you reject it anyway, in a Kirk-like fury, just to send a signal, to punish someone. Our results showed that there's no clean separation between a cold calculation and the hot anger that an unfair offer engenders. Kirk and Spock are joined at the hip."


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Contact: Paula Byron
pbyron@vt.edu
540-526-2027
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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