Money on my mind

Money on my mindIt seems that the actual pursuit of money, in and of itself, is just as rewarding as being able to spend it. In a small study (most brain studies are small by necessity – it’s kind of expensive to fire up an fMRI machine), Neurologist, Brian Knutson from Stanford University, and his colleagues, found that there is a region of the brain that activates when a person anticipates gaining a monetary reward ($0.20  – $5.00).

They found that a particular region of the nucleus acumbens (NAcc), a part of the brain associated with reward seeking, becomes active (and is correlated with self-reported happiness) when it anticipates a large ($5.00) monetary award, but not when it anticipates punishment (for the record, the study looked at winning and losing money, rather than anything more sinister in relation to punishment).

It seems that the actual pursuit of money, in and of itself, is just as rewarding as being able to spend it. In a small study (most brain studies are small by necessity – it’s kind of expensive to fire up an fMRI machine), Neurologist, Brian Knutson from Stanford University, and his colleagues, found that there is a region of the brain that activates when a person anticipates gaining a monetary reward ($0.20  – $5.00).

They found that a particular region of the nucleus acumbens (NAcc), a part of the brain associated with reward seeking, becomes active (and is correlated with self-reported happiness) when it anticipates a large ($5.00) monetary award, but not when it anticipates punishment (for the record, the study looked at winning and losing money, rather than anything more sinister in relation to punishment).

Knutson suggested that the nucleus acumbens operates a little like an accelerator pedal, and the pre-frontal cortex (that part of the brain that manages social behaviour, problem solving and complex decision-making) works as a steering wheel, directing us toward achieving those reward goals.

It makes sense in a strange kind of way – we need to have this drive toward all sorts of rewards, even abstract ones like money, but we also need some sensible navigation to work out how to get us there. One problem is that prefrontal cortex requires a lot of effort to function, so contrary to our better judgment, our accelerator pedal often gets pressed before we have time to grab the steering wheel, and we are at the behest of our reward seeking desires.

 

~

Knutson et al (2001) Anticipation of Increasing Monetary Reward Selectively Recruits Nucleus Accumbens, The Journal of Neuroscience. 

This entry was posted in Consumer Behavior, Human Behavior, Research, Social Psychology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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