Money Illusion in the human brain


Monetary rewards are uniquely human. Most fMRI studies use monetary rewards due to the ease of presenting them visually. We tested the efficacy of different forms of monetary reward presentations -- alphanumeric display, pictures of coins (pence) and money bills. For alphanumeric and coin presentation, subjects received exactly the same amount that was displayed whereas for money bills, the amount received was equal to 1% of the amount displayed. Money illusion is said to occur when participants’ responses are driven by the nominal rather than the real value. The total money accumulated was displayed throughout the experiment at bottom of the screen. Money illusion related responses were observed in lateral orbitofrontal cortex. Interestingly visual saliency of displayed monetary rewards activated the medial orbitofrontal cortex. It is expected that higher subjective reward value can be achieved by the money illusion technique.

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