Human Versus Computer

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Science  28 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5539, pp. 2353
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5539.2353a

One topic occupying countless hours of coffee klatch is predicting how one person will behave toward another. Often arising in situations where choices must be made, the attempt to construct the possible outcomes of another individual's actions relies on considering not only the short-term consequences but also the long-term reverberations. Some of the factors taken into account are the payoff matrix (for example, relating actions to rewards in a two-player game) and the reputations of the players.

McCabe et al. have taken a step in uncovering the neural basis of making cooperative choices by conducting a brain imaging analysis of participants in a trust and reciprocity game. By giving up immediate profit, the first player could obtain a larger reward if the “opponent” then cooperated by not grabbing the lion's share. Prefrontal regions of the brain (the “command and control” center) were more active in trials where the opponent was a second and potentially cooperative human as compared with a computer that pursued a fixed strategy of known probabilistic choice. What, precisely, this activation represents will be examined in future studies. — GJC

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.98, 11832 (2001).

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