Science

More fun with brains

How many of my past relationships could have been saved with just a simple electrical impulse? Researchers have just figured out how to turn off a person’s sense of selfishness, which is actually an important trait to make sure you don’t get scammed.

They tested subjects by giving pairs of people a certain amount of money – one person had the option to split the money in any way, and if the other person agreed to the amount, they both got to keep the money. When the researchers affected the prefrontal cortex, subjects accepted substantially more unfair deals than normal.

On a side note, I took an online test a few weeks ago that had this same problem. The test was to determine whether your brain was “male” or “female,” by comparing your answers to those of the average man or woman. The question was stated (I’m paraphrasing), “You are given $100 to share with another person. You can offer any amount, and if the other person accepts the amount you get to keep the money. If the other person rejects the amount, you get nothing. How much money do you give?” I immediately typed in $50 and moved on to the next question. It just seemed so obvious that I didn’t even understand what there was to consider. After I submitted my answers, the test mentioned that most women gave more than men, something like $40. That’s when I realized that the point was to get as much money as you could — I had been operating under the thought process of, “Hey, someone just gave me free money. I’ll split it with this other person and everybody’s happy.”

I never before realized what a naive sucker I am.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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2 Comments

  1. I, too, am a naive sucker, as I would offer 50% since that seems to be the way to maximize profit while guaranteeing that the other person accepts.

    Not that this matters anyway, since the test decided that I was androgynous naive sucker, so I guess I'll not be getting the money or the mates…

  2. I don't think it really matters how much or how little you give. The other person is either getting whatever you're willing to give, or nothing at all. I think it would simply depend on how vindictive they are to deny you getting your share as well.

    A better question would be: how much money would you settle for if the other person was offering.

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