During the first phase of the trial, 16 participants were presented with two graphical images on a screen. They were taught to recognise some characteristics of the graphics which would be associated with monetary rewards in the next part of the experiment, and those graphical aspects linked to negative outcomes.I'll save commentary and connection to high-stakes testing and teacher salaries for later. Right now I'm having my orbitofrontal cortex massaged.
In phase two, the volunteers received an endowment of $35. While their brains were scanned, they had to guess which one of two images was linked to a $1 reward and which offered no reward. In subsequent trials they had to choose between sets of two images, one which offered no reward and one that incurred a $1 penalty.
Brain scans revealed a similar boost in activity within the medial OFC of subjects whether they gained a dollar or avoided losing one. “This shows for the first time that [punishment avoidance] seems to be a reward,” says O’Doherty.
Jul 7, 2006
now I won't have to miss recess
Avoiding a penalty, neurologically speaking, is roughly equivalent to receiving a reward, if this study is correct.