While some attention has been paid to the physiologic markers of emotional reactions triggered during economic decisions and after the corresponding feedback is received, an individual’s physiological profile as predictor of economic and strategic behavior remains an under-explored area of research. My research in the Laboratory of Experimental Physioeconomics at the University Jaume I, aimed at formulating and testing concrete hypotheses regarding physiological profiles that can be useful as predictors of human behavior in two types of economic decision making contexts: individual decision making under uncertainty and strategic behavior in non-cooperative environments.
Our most interesting result, published in “Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience“, was that high emotional arousal is not solely associated to unethical economic behavior —such as tax evasion— as previous research had revealed. Instead, people get emotionally aroused also when making ethical choices if these choices imply the loss of monetary reward. In other words, it seems to be more stressful for someone to lose money than to make an unethical decision that causes a loss of money to others. This means that, in certain circumstances, our bodies reward unethical decisions in order to minimise the unpleasant feeling produced by decisions that cost us money. This behavior is inverted when the possibility of punishment exists. In that case corrupt decisions become more stressful than ethical ones.
These results support the existence of severe external control in economic transactions and bare important consequences for the political fight against corruption.
1. Jaber-López, T., García-Gallego, A., Perakakis, P., Georgantzis, N. (2014). Physiological and behavioral patterns of corruption. Front. Behav. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00434