Past Event

Ernst Fehr – The Brain’s Functional Network Architecture Reveals Human Motives

September 26, 2016
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
326 Uris Hall, Columbia University, 3022 Broadway, New York

Speaker: Ernst Fehr, University of Zurich

Goal-directed human behaviors are driven by motives. Motives are, however, purely mental constructs that are not directly observable. Here, we show that the brain’s functional network architecture captures information that predicts different motives behind the same altruistic act with high accuracy. In contrast, mere activity in these regions contains no information about motives. Empathy-based altruism is primarily characterized by a positive connectivity from the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to the anterior insula (AI), whereas reciprocity-based altruism additionally invokes strong positive connectivity from the AI to the ACC and even stronger positive connectivity from the AI to the ventral striatum. Moreover, predominantly selfish individuals show distinct functional architectures compared to altruists, and they only increase altruistic behavior in response to empathy inductions, but not reciprocity inductions.

Please register on the event’s website. This event is free and open to the public.

Ernst Fehr has been Professor of Microeconomics and Experimental Economics at the University of Zürich since 1994. He served as director of the Institute for Empirical Research in Economics and chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich. He currently serves as director of the UBS International Center of Economics in Society. He has been a Global Distinguished Professor at New York University since 2011 and was an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2003 to 2011. He is a former president of the Economic Science Association and of the European Economic Association, an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and John Kenneth Galbraith Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. He was recipient of the Marcel Benoist Prize in 2008 and the Gottlieb Duttweiler Prize in 2013. Ernst Fehr was born in Hard (Vorarlberg, Austria) in 1956. He studied Economics at the University of Vienna, where he later earned his doctorate and completed his habilitation. Ernst Fehr has numerous publications in international top journals including Science, Nature, Neuron, Quarterly Journal of Economics, American Economic Review, Econometrica, Journal of Political Economy, and Psychological Science. His research focuses on the proximate patterns and the evolutionary origins of human altruism and the interplay between social preferences, social norms and strategic interactions. He has conducted extensive research on the impact of social preferences on competition, cooperation and on the psychological foundations of incentives. More recently he has worked on the role of bounded rationality in strategic interactions and on the neurobiological foundations of social and economic behavior. Fehr’s work is characterized by the combination of game theoretic tools with experimental methods and the use of insights from economics, social psychology, sociology, biology and neuroscience for a better understanding of human social behavior.

The Cognition and Decision Seminar Series is sponsored by the Program for Economic Research and the Center for Decision Sciences.