Lab dinner for Pierre & Clara

Lab dinner to celebrate Pierre Karashchuk and Clara Pretus on their time at Berkeley!

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From left: Weilun, Zhihao, Ming, Pierre, Anna, Clara, Gil.

New paper on neural basis of updating under ambiguity

Congratulations to Kenji Kobayashi, who paper on updating under ambiguity was just accepted at Journal of Neuroscience.

Title: Neural mechanisms of updating under reducible and irreducible uncertainty

Authors: Kenji Kobayashi and Ming Hsu

Adaptive decision-making depends on agents’ ability to make use of environmental signals to reduce uncertainty. However, because there exist multiple types of uncertainty, agents should take into account not only the extent to which signals violate prior expectancy but also whether uncertainty can be reduced in the first place. Here we studied how the brain responds to signals under conditions of reducible and irreducible uncertainty. We show behaviorally that subjects’ value updating was sensitivity to the reducibility of uncertainty, and could be quantitative characterized by a Bayesian model where agents ignore expectancy violations that do not update beliefs or values. Using fMRI, we found that neural processes underlying belief and value updating were separable from responses to expectancy violation, and that reducibility of uncertainty in value modulated connection from belief- to value-updating regions. Together, these results provide insights into how agents use the knowledge on uncertainty to improve decisions while ignoring mere expectancy violation. 

Lab Dinner for Daniel, Rachel, and Thomas

Lab dinner to celebrate Daniel Wong, Rachel Lee, and Thomas Dolman for their time at the lab!

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From Left: Zhihao, Daniel, Pierre, Rachel, Anna, Thomas, Ignacio

New paper on Neuromarketing in California Management Review

New paper just accepted at California Management Review.

Neuromarketing: Inside the mind of the consumer

Managers today are under tremendous pressure to uncover factors driving customers’ attitudes and behavior. Unfortunately, traditional methods suffer from well-known limitations, and have remained largely unchanged since their introduction decades ago. As a result, there is growing interest in brain-based approaches that may enable managers to directly probe customers’ underlying thoughts, feelings, and intentions. This article aims to provide practical guidance to managers on using these tools, focusing on two distinct uses: validation of existing insights and generation of novel insights. Throughout, we stress that managers should see traditional and brain-based approaches as complements, rather than substitutes, in understanding customers.

Pierre Karashchuk receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Congratulations to Pierre Karashchuk, who was just awarded the prestigious NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship for his proposal applying computational linguistic models to understand stereotypes in natural language!

Welcome to Gil Sharvit

Welcome to Gil Sharvit, who is joining our lab on a postdoctoral research fellowship from the Swiss National Fund. He will be investigating cognitive mechanisms of disclosure behavior, whether the human brain encodes for a dedicated value in those situations, and how can learn to avoid bad decisions (e.g. regretful exposure) when we exchange information with others.

New paper on Dissociable contributions of imagination and willpower to the malleability of human patience

Anna Jenkins’s paper has been accepted at Psychological Science.

Dissociable contributions of imagination and willpower to the malleability of human patience

The ability to exercise patience is important for human functioning. Although it is widely known that patience can be promoted by using willpower to override impatient impulses, patience is also malleable—in particular, susceptible to framing effects—in ways that are difficult to explain on a willpower account alone. So far, the mechanisms underlying framing effects on patience have been elusive. Here we investigated a role for imagination, dissociable from willpower, in these effects. Behaviorally, a classic framing manipulation increased self-reported and independently-coded imagination during intertemporal choice (Experiment 1). Neurally, reframing increased the extent to which patience was associated with activation in brain regions associated with imagination, relative to those associated with willpower, and increased functional connectivity of brain regions associated with imagination, but not willpower, to regions associated with valuation (Experiment 2). Results suggest that reframing can increase the role of imagination in decision-making without increasing willpower exertion.

Welcome to Thomas Dolman

Welcome to Thomas Dolman, who is visiting us from University of Amsterdam as a visiting Master’s student. He will be using psychophysical approaches to data gathering and a computational approach to making predictions on social perception integration.

Congratulations Dr. Kenji Kobayashi!

Kenji Kobayashi has officially received his Ph.D. He will be starting as a postdoc in the Gottlieb lab at Columbia in the spring. Congratulations Kenji! Now for the commencement photos. :)




Welcome to Zhihao Zhang

Welcome to Zhihao Zhang to the lab as a postdoc fellow. Zhihao obtained his Neurobiology PhD at Yale School of Medicine. He will be jointly working with our lab and the Kayser lab on some exciting studies combining fMRI, pharmacology, and computational modeling.

New paper on honesty and deception

New paper offering a signaling perspective on studying the neural substrates of honesty and deception.

Jenkins, Adrianna, Lusha Zhu, and Ming Hsu. “Cognitive neuroscience of honesty and deception: A signaling framework.” Current Opinions in Behavioral Sciences.

US-France Collaboration Award

A US-France collaboration from NIDA has been awarded to support our work with Sacha Gironde at Jean Nicod Institute on understanding the computational substrates of monetary exchange.

Welcome to Zuzanna Balewski

Welcome to Zuzanna Balewski to the lab as a Neuroscience program rotation student. She will be working with Ignacio Saez on electrocorticography studies of economic decision-making.

Sackler Fellow Award to Ming Hsu

Ming Hsu just received a UC Berkeley-UCSF Sackler Program Fellowship to support translating basic neuroeconomic research to clinical applications. Prof. Hsu will be working with researchers at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center to improve current assessments of decision-making and social deficits, as well as to explore their commercial applications.

K01 Award for Ignacio Saez

Congratulations to Ignacio on his newly awarded K01 application, “Electrocorticography of human prefrontal cortex during value-based decision-making”!

New paper on culture and genes

Shinobu Kitayama, Tony King, Israel Liberzon, and I just had a review paper on the interaction between genes and culture accepted1. I'm not a cultural psychology researcher, and never thought about it much prior to talking to Shinobu. His paper on the relationship between rice and wheat cultivation on the one hand, and culture on the other, really changed how I think about the role of biology and culture.

Briefly, northern China largely relies on wheat-based cultivation, whereas souther China is largely rice-based. There are also pretty profound cultural differences. But up until now nobody bothered to quantitatively link the two and provide some rationale for why they might be connected. You'll have to read their paper for the full story, but for me it makes an incredible amount of sense, and also explains some of the regional stereotypes that every Chinese speaker would know by heart.

The other benefit of thinking about behavioral consequences of culture is that it allows for a much more mechanistic conceptualization of the effects of genes on culture, which is what our paper discusses. Below is one of the figures from the paper that tries to capture why social scientists interested in culture should care about biology, and why biological researchers should care about culture. Obviously this is incomplete and missing many important details, but given that culture is typically thought of as a nuisance variable in genetic and biological research, this is already an important step forward.

1 Kitayama, Shinobu, Anthony King, Ming Hsu, and Israel Liberzon. “Dopamine-System Genes and Cultural Acquisition: The Norm Sensitivity Hypothesis.” Current Opinion in Psychology.

Haas Profile of Lab Research

Haas Now just posted a profile on some of our recent research, and how they might change the future of business and marketing. If you are too lazy to read the whole thing, this is the one sentence summary of why businesses should care about what we are trying to do.

People say a lot of things, a lot of which are true but some are not. We want to develop ways to separate these.

New paper on neuroeconomics and neurology

My collaborators at UCSF's Memory and Aging Center just had a paper accepted in Brain, where we applied neuroeconomic tools to characterize behavioral deficits in frontotemporal dementia patients. Behavioral and social dysfunctions are some of the most difficult to capture quantitatively, even though they are often the most visible symptoms to family and loved ones. Hopefully we will be able to finally make some inroads given all that we have learned in neuroeconomics in the past decade.

Chiong, Winston, Kristie Wood, Alexander Beagle, Ming Hsu, Andrew Kayser, Bruce Miller, and Joel Kramer. “Neuroeconomic dissociation of semantic dementia and behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia.” Brain.

Early Career Award to Ming Hsu

Prof. Ming Hsu received the Early Career Award at the 2015 Society for Neuroeconomics conference!

Welcome Nick Angelides and Paul Krueger

Welcome Nick Angelides and Paul Krueger to the lab!

Nick is starting as a PhD student in the Cognitive Neuroscience group in Psychology. Nick received his B.A. from Rutgers University and M.St. from the University of Oxford. He joins us after working with the lab of Tim Vickery on economic decision-making. He is interested in the intersection of social and economic decision-making. His research aims to characterize the neural mechanisms underlying competitive and cooperative behavior using machine learning pattern classification methods, and modulating dopamine systems using pharmacological tools.

Paul is also starting as a PhD student in the Cognitive Neuroscience group in Psychology. Paul received his B.A. from Princeton where he worked in the lab of Jonathan Cohen. Uniquely among psychology students, Paul is putting together his own lab rotation, where he will be working with Sonia Bishop and Rich Ivry.