Want vs. Should: Neural and behavioral effects of affect and cognition on decisions about material goods (Preston)
What brain areas are involved in deciding what we want to keep, what we can discard, what has meaning for us, and what has monetary value?
A study carried out by Preston set out to explore the neuroanatomical substrates for these decisions by performing an fMRI task in which subjects made force-decisions between everyday goods.
Before that, let’s familiarize ourselves with the term acquisitiveness, which is characterized by a strong desire to possess, gain or retain. Acquisitiveness is a trait that may be beneficial for heatlh, quality of life, and the environment.
Personal decisions: According to Preston, “personal decisions activate the self-referential, default midline systems more while decisions for financial benefit activate more lateral, cognitive control regions associated with comparing and calculating the value of items.” Because these decisions are of an intuitive and affective nature, they engage affective and self-relevant regions like the orbitofrontal cortex, right angular gyrus, right middle temporal gyrus (MTG) and others. These decision are marked by increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a self-processing area.
Monetary decisions: are controlled and economical. They involve the right insula (value-judgement area), the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dLPFC), an evaluative area, and Broca’s area (analysis and planning).
Acquisition decisions: act like a hedonic (pleasure) signal are marked by an increase in desirability and engage the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) and nucleus accumbens (reward area) engagement. Decisions in which reward may be acquired are also related to associated with mesolimbocortical (MLC) regions.
Discarding decisions: have elements of additional control and evaluation. Individuals usually think in utilitarian terms to establish preference and possessiveness has been shown to increase an object’s desirability. These are taken in basis of monetary value and involves the insula and the ACC.
- All decision types (personal, monetary, acquire, discard) engage the mPFC.
- Acquisitiveness involves both acquisition and failure to discard.
- Acquisitiveness entails incentive salience (motivational, wanting attribute due to the brain’s prediction for reward) for even mundane, utilitarian items.
- Hoarding behaviors are associated with the OFC.