Neural Substrates of Decision-Making in Economic Games
In economic experiments decisions often differ from game-theoretic predictions. Why are people generous in one-shot ultimatum games with strangers? Is there a benefit to generosity toward strangers? Research on the neural substrates of decisions suggests that some choices are hormone-dependent. By artificially stimulating subjects with neuroactive hormones, we can identify which hormones and brain regions participate in decision-making, to what degree and in what direction. Can a hormone make a person generous while another stingy? In this paper, two laboratory experiments are described using the hormones oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP). Concentrations of these hormones in the brain continuously change in response to external stimuli. OT enhances trust (Michael Kosfeld et al. 2005b), reduce fear from strangers (C. Sue Carter 1998), and has anti-anxiety effects (Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg, Maria Peterson 2005). AVP enhances attachment and bonding with kin in monogamous male mammals (Jennifer N. Ferguson et al. 2002) and increases reactive aggression (C. Sue Carter 2007). Dysfunctions of OT and/or AVP reception have been associated with autism (Miranda M. Lim et al. 2005).