Investment and Emotion

Study Proposal #10: Investment and Emotion (Shiv et al.) (C) | 13NOV13


Certain types of lesions inhibiting emotions can be helpful in the decision making processes in some situations, like investment decisions. I claim that one such scenario where emotions can be useful are in matters of dealing with decisions about other human beings. This might be the case in situations where people have to make judgement calls with significant potential consequences for other human beings. The main one that comes to mind for me is parole board decisions. I claim that patients with inhibited emotions will be less successful in accurately making parole decisions in context of rehabilitation for prisoners. Inhibited emotions will make these patients less likely to be able to empathize with other humans and accurately assess whether a prisoner is ready to be reintroduced to the real world or is truly innocent. This would be because they would be less capable of understanding signals of emotional healing and would be more likely to calculate for risk in a way that disfavours prisoners who may actually be on a road to recovery. An emotional people may be able to see more clearly the signs when rehabilitation is working because of empathy or vice-versa.


The experiment will follow a similar structure as the study in the Shiv et al. paper. A 2×2 experimental matrix with the same sample of population affected by lesions to neural circuitry that is critical for the processing of emotions along with a  “normal” group.

Participants will be asked to take the position of a parole board at a large prison. They will have to make parole decisions about 20 inmates whose stories are taken from real life cases.  They will be given $20 as in the original experiment as a base “salary” and every time they make the correct parole decision in a round they will get a bonus of $0.50 and if they make a mistake they will be deducted $0.50. This will help to incentivize participants. Their stories of real life inmates and of their crime, background and their prison experience will be shown in each round. The participant will be told to make a decision of whether to release the prisoner based on evidence of rehabilitation or whether to keep in detention based on if they are seen as a threat to society. The distribution of cases (successfully paroled or not) will be equal and randomly dispersed through the experiment. Once there decision has been made, they will be presented with the real life result of the parole decision and the story of that prisoner. They will then proceed to the next round.

Experiment structure / predictions Parole denied in real life Parole granted in real life
Normal (make more money) Deny Parole Allow Parole
Emotional Lesion (make less money) Deny Parole Deny Parole


    If emotion plays a large part in determining accurate judgements about rehabilitation in human behaviour than patients with lesions to their emotional processes will be able to make less accurate judgements about rehabilitation.


If proven this would have a significant effect on our legal and justice system. We view the system as something that should be objective in its search for truth but instead perhaps we need more empathic judges and jurors who are aware on an emotional level of the positive and negative emotions. I would suggest if this were true that the best members of the legal system would be those who have read a great deal of classic literature to be able to develop empathy understand different mindsets and personality types.


question, agree or disagree

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