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What Is for Me Is Not for You: Brain Correlates of Intertemporal Choice for Self and Other

Listed author(s):
  • Albrecht, Konstanze
  • Volz, Kirsten G.
  • Sutter, Matthias
  • Laibson, David I.
  • Yves von Cramon, D.

People have present-biased preferences: they choose more impatiently when choosing between an immediate reward and a delayed reward, than when choosing between a delayed reward and a more delayed reward. Following McClure et al. [McClure, S.M., Laibson, D.I., Loewenstein, G., Cohen, J.D. (2004). Separate neural systems value immediate and delayed monetary rewards. Science, 306, 503.], we find that areas in the dopaminergic reward system show greater activation when a binary choice set includes both an immediate reward and a delayed reward in contrast to activation measured when the binary choice set contains only delayed rewards. The presence of an immediate reward in the choice set elevates activation of the ventral striatum, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex and anterior medial prefrontal cortex. These dopaminergic reward areas are also responsive to the identity of the recipient of the reward. Even an immediate reward does not activate these dopaminergic regions when the decision is being made for another person. Our results support the hypotheses that participants show less affective engagement (i) when they are making choices for themselves that only involve options in the future or (ii) when they are making choices for someone else. As hypothesized, we also find that behavioral choices reflect more patience when choosing for someone else.

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Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 9972760.

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Date of creation: 2011
Publication status: Published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:9972760
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  1. Knutson, Brian & Peterson, Richard, 2005. "Neurally reconstructing expected utility," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 305-315, August.
  2. Daniel Kahneman, 2003. "Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1449-1475, December.
  3. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
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