Friday, August 24, 2007

The impulse to prefer now to then?   posted by Razib @ 8/24/2007 05:50:00 PM

There's a new paper which uses fMRI to localize an area of the brain which seems to be involved in preventing impulsive actions. I can't but help think that something like this, which might vary from person to person, could be one of the upstream factors which shapes individual time preference. This is on my mind because I just finished Farewell to Alms by Greg Clark, and change in mean time preference is at the root of a shift in behavior which he believes primed the English (among others) for their breakout from the Malthusian trap. But it is one thing to posit a behavior whose distribution is governed by selective forces of a quantitative genetic nature, the case for any such arguments gains a boost if one could tunnel down to the level of biophysical specificity so as to assess variation across individuals and populations.

In other news, watch this space. Our own Herrick has a "10 questions" with Clark pending, so keep an eye out (that means you Ambrosini Critique).