The Psychology of Everyday Life: Motivation and the Search For Happiness

The Biology of Money

What are the drawbacks with the prefrontal cortex?

As mentioned above, the frontal cortex takes up an enormous amount of energy, and mobilizes a large portion of the brain. Although the prefrontal cortex is powerful, it is slow and inefficient. Thus we would miss a good deal of information if we were solely dependent on our frontal lobe for reading our environment. Additionally, the pre-frontal cortex does not address personal value.

It is our emotions that tell us the value of any given situation, whether and how something matters to us. In fact, without a sense of something’s personal value, we are unable to make decisions. For example, people with lesions in their orbital frontal cortex cannot make decisions. This is a region that integrates information about our emotions into our reading of current and future events. Furthermore, if we think about a decision too much, it distorts our decisions.

In a 1993 study by Timothy Wilson and colleagues, undergraduate women were given the option to pick one of five posters. The subjects were divided into two groups. In one group, the subjects were instructed to rate from 1 to 9 how much they liked each poster prior to picking one. In the second group, subjects filled out a questionnaire about why they liked or disliked each poster before making their choice. Several weeks later, 75 percent of the second group regretted their decision, while none of the first group did. In this case, over-analysis interfered with effective decision making.


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