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Study finds 'law-like' patterns in human preference behavior
Date:5/26/2010

In a study appearing in the journal PLoS ONE, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) scientists describe finding mathematical patterns underlying the way individuals unconsciously distribute their preferences regarding approaching or avoiding objects in their environment. These patterns appear to meet the strict criteria used to determine whether something is a scientific law and, if confirmed in future studies, could potentially be used to guide diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders.

"Law-like processes are important in science for their predictive value, and finding patterns in behavior that meet criteria for lawfulness is extremely rare," explains Hans Breiter, MD, principal investigator of the MGH Phenotype Genotype Project in Addiction and Mood Disorder (http://pgp.mgh.harvard.edu), who led the study. "The patterns we observed appear to describe the unconscious range of preference an individual has with a specificity suggestive of that of a fingerprint. We look forward to learning what other scientists find about these patterns." These patterns which the authors group together under the name relative preference theory incorporate features of several older theories of reward and aversion into a single theory.

The PLoS ONE study reports on the outcome of three sets of experiments. In each, healthy participants were presented with a series of images and could vary the amount of time they viewed each image by pressing the keys of a keypad. The first group of participants viewed a series of four human faces average-looking male, average-looking female, attractive male and attractive female. The second group was presented with a series of photographs of images ranging from children, food, sports and musical instruments to war, disaster, and drug paraphernalia. The third group viewed four different images of food two of normal appearing meals, one in which the food was abn
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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