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Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Wait Is Worse

A study in Science looks at what parts of the brain light up during dread.
Standard economic theory says that people should postpone bad outcomes for as long as possible, because something might happen in the interim to improve the outlook.

In real life the "just get it over with" reaction is more likely, said Berns, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. He offers a personal example: He usually pays credit card bills as soon as they arrive instead of waiting until they're due, even though "it doesn't make any sense economically."

So Berns designed a study to trace dread inside the brain. He put 32 volunteers into an MRI machine while giving them a series of 96 electric shocks to the foot. The shocks varied in intensity, from barely detectable to the pain of a needle jab.

You get the jist, a bunch of people with strong dread when given a choice would choose stronger shocks as long as they happened sooner and they got them over with, rather than having to wait but getting milder shocks.

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