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McCabe on Neuroeconomics: Link Between Sex and Greed

A Stanford University study funded by the National Institutes of Health used magnetic resonance imaging machines to indicate that young men's willingness to take risky monetary gambles increases after viewing erotic images.

Commenting in a California newspaper article, Professor of Economics and Law Kevin McCabe said that the link between sex and greed goes back hundreds of thousands of years to men's evolutionary role as provider or resource gatherer to attract women.

"Risk-taking is a natural way of increasing your relative success, but, of course, there's a downside to it: what we're seeing right now in the economy," said McCabe.

The Stanford study is part of the growing field of neuroeconomics, in which brain biology is studied in combination with psychology and economics in an attempt to explain why individuals make the financial decisions they do.

McCabe holds appointments at George Mason's Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, the Mercatus Center, and Krasnow Institute. He has written or co-written over 50 articles on market design, industrial organization, game theory, monetary theory, behavioral economics, and experimental economics and has been coprincipal investigator on many National Science Foundation grants, including a recent NSF study on "Brain Function and Economic Decision Making, 2001-2003."

Money on his mind could be sexy sign, The (Hayward, CA) Daily Review, April 5, 2008. By Seth Borenstain.

Excerpt:
"A new brain-scan study may help explain what's going on in the minds of financial titans when they take risky monetary gambles -- sex.

"When young men were shown erotic pictures, they were more likely to make a larger financial gamble than if they were shown a picture of something scary, such as a snake, or something neutral, such as a stapler, university researchers reported.

"The arousing pictures lit up the same part of the brain that lights up when financial risks are taken.

"'You have a need in an evolutionary sense for both money and women. They trigger the same brain area,' said Camelia Kuhnen, a Northwestern University finance professor who conducted the study with a Stanford University psychologist.

"Their research appears in the current edition of the peer-reviewed journal NeuroReport. "

Read the article