To Damasio, Elliot's pathology suggested that emotions are a crucial part of the decision-making process. When we are cut off from our feelings, the most banal decisions became impossible. A brain that can't feel can't make up its mind.
The importance of dopamine was discovered by accident. In 1954, James Olds and Peter Milner, two neuroscientists at McGill University, decided to implant an electrode deep into the center of a rat's brain. The precise placement of the electrode was largely happenstance; at the time, the geography of the mind remained a mystery. But Olds and Milner got lucky. They inserted the needle right next to the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), a part of the brain that generates pleasurable feelings. Whenever you eat a piece of chocolate cake, or listen to a favorite pop song, or watch your favorite team win the...
But happiness isn't the only feeling that dopamine produces. Scientists now know that this neurotransmitter helps to regulate all of our emotions, from the first stirrings of love to the most visceral forms of disgust. It is the common neural currency of the mind, the molecule that helps us decide among alternatives. By looking at how dopamine works inside the brain, we can see why feelings are capable of providing deep insights.
Consider this experiment: Drazen Prelec and Duncan Simester, two business professors at MIT, organized a real-life, sealed-bid auction for tickets to a Boston Celtics game. Half the participants in the auction were informed that they had to pay with cash; the other half were told they had to pay with credit cards. Prelec and Simester then averaged the bids for the two different groups. Lo and behold, the average credit card bid was twice as high as the average cash bid. When people used their Visas and MasterCards, their bids were much more reckless. They no longer felt the need to contain their...
Note: Wow.