Friday, May 05, 2006

Research: Dread and distraction

So I'm sitting here at work this morning, a couple hours before I'm to have the hated pressure flow study, and I'm reading the NYT, and here's a report about a nifty study into how dread--the feeling experienced in anticipation of an unpleasant experience--works in the brain. Snip:
"We sort of knew that things like self-hypnosis help relieve dread, but now we know why," said Dr. Gregory S. Berns, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, who led the study.

The research, being published today in the journal Science, is "terrific, " said a leading expert on brain imaging, Dr. Read Montague, a professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine who was not involved in the study. It demonstrates that the brain "assigns a cost to waiting for something bad, so that the bad thing is worse when it's delayed farther in the future," Dr. Montague said.
The research also sheds light on economic behavior, said George Loewenstein, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University. According to standard economic models of human behavior, choosing more pain in the short run is irrational, Dr. Loewenstein said: if you know something bad is going to happen, you should postpone it as long as possible, and if something good is going to happen, you should want it right away.

In real life, people often do the exact opposite, he said. They delay gratification to savor a sweet sense of anticipation, and accelerate punishment just to get it over with. The new study sheds light, he said, on how the act of waiting can be used to describe economic behavior more accurately.

Maybe Jenny (or or possibly Jenni) can squeeze me in early...

Link (free reg req'd)

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