Mohr, Peter N. C.

Peter N. C.

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Risk Patterns and Correlated Brain Activities : Multidimensional Statistical Analysis of fMRI Data in Economic Decision Making Study

2014-07, Bömmel, Alena van, Song, Song, Majer, Piotr, Mohr, Peter N. C., Heekeren, Hauke R., Härdle, Wolfgang K.

Decision making usually involves uncertainty and risk. Understanding which parts of the human brain are activated during decisions under risk and which neural processes underly (risky) investment decisions are important goals in neuroeconomics. Here, we analyze functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data on 17 subjects who were exposed to an investment decision task from Mohr, Biele, Krugel, Li, and Heekeren (in NeuroImage 49, 2556–2563, 2010b). We obtain a time series of three-dimensional images of the blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) fMRI signals. We apply a panel version of the dynamic semiparametric factor model (DSFM) presented in Park, Mammen, Wolfgang, and Borak (in Journal of the American Statistical Association 104(485), 284–298, 2009) and identify task-related activations in space and dynamics in time. With the panel DSFM (PDSFM) we can capture the dynamic behavior of the specific brain regions common for all subjects and represent the high-dimensional time-series data in easily interpretable low-dimensional dynamic factors without large loss of variability. Further, we classify the risk attitudes of all subjects based on the estimated low-dimensional time series. Our classification analysis successfully confirms the estimated risk attitudes derived directly from subjects’ decision behavior.

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Trusting Humans and Avatars : A Brain Imaging Study Based on Evolution Theory

2014, Riedl, Rene, Mohr, Peter N. C., Kenning, Peter H., Davis, Fred D., Heekeren, Hauke R.

Avatars, as virtual humans possessing realistic faces, are increasingly used for social and economic interaction on the Internet. Research has already determined that avatar-based communication may increase perceived interpersonal trust in anonymous online environments. Despite this trust-inducing potential of avatars, however, we hypothesize that in trust situations, people will perceive human faces differently than they will perceive avatar faces. This prediction is based on evolution theory, because throughout human history the majority of interaction among people has taken place in face-to-face settings. Therefore, unlike perception of an avatar face, perception of a human face and the related trustworthiness discrimination abilities must be part of the genetic makeup of humans. Against this background, we conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment based on a multiround trust game to gain insight into the differences and similarities of interactions between humans versus human interaction with avatars. Our results indicate that (1) people are better able to predict the trustworthiness of humans than the trustworthiness of avatars; (2) decision making about whether or not to trust another actor activates the medial frontal cortex significantly more during interaction with humans, if compared to interaction with avatars; this brain area is of paramount importance for the prediction of other individuals' thoughts and intentions (mentalizing), a notably important ability in trust situations; and (3) the trustworthiness learning rate is similar, whether interacting with humans or avatars. Thus, the major implication of this study is that although interaction on the Internet may have benefits, the lack of real human faces in communication may serve to reduce these benefits, in turn leading to reduced levels of collaboration effectiveness.


Music-evoked incidental happiness modulates probability weighting during risky lottery choices

2014, Schulreich, Stefan, Heussen, Yana G., Gerhardt, Holger, Mohr, Peter N. C., Binkofski, Ferdinand C., Koelsch, Stefan, Heekeren, Hauke R.

We often make decisions with uncertain consequences. The outcomes of the choices we make are usually not perfectly predictable but probabilistic, and the probabilities can be known or unknown. Probability judgments, i.e., the assessment of unknown probabilities, can be influenced by evoked emotional states. This suggests that also the weighting of known probabilities in decision making under risk might be influenced by incidental emotions, i.e., emotions unrelated to the judgments and decisions at issue. Probability weighting describes the transformation of probabilities into subjective decision weights for outcomes and is one of the central components of cumulative prospect theory (CPT) that determine risk attitudes. We hypothesized that music-evoked emotions would modulate risk attitudes in the gain domain and in particular probability weighting. Our experiment featured a within-subject design consisting of four conditions in separate sessions. In each condition, the 41 participants listened to a different kind of music—happy, sad, or no music, or sequences of random tones—and performed a repeated pairwise lottery choice task. We found that participants chose the riskier lotteries significantly more often in the “happy” than in the “sad” and “random tones” conditions. Via structural regressions based on CPT, we found that the observed changes in participants' choices can be attributed to changes in the elevation parameter of the probability weighting function: in the “happy” condition, participants showed significantly higher decision weights associated with the larger payoffs than in the “sad” and “random tones” conditions. Moreover, elevation correlated positively with self-reported music-evoked happiness. Thus, our experimental results provide evidence in favor of a causal effect of incidental happiness on risk attitudes that can be explained by changes in probability weighting.