who make irrational decisions when faced with problems are
at the mercy of their emotions, a study says.
traced the origin of such decisions to the brain's emotion
centre, the amygdala, in a study of 20 people using a gambling
brain region fires up in people faced with a difficult situation
but reactions to its effects vary, the University College
London team found.
findings were published in the Science journal.
found some people kept a cool head and managed to keep their
emotions in check, while others were led by their emotional
trial, participants motivated by the promise of real money
were first offered a starting amount of $50.
were then presented with one of two "sure option" choices,
either to "keep $20", or to "lose $30", as well as the opportunity
to take an all-or-nothing gamble.
both sure options left players with the same amount of cash,
$20, people were more likely to gamble when faced with the
prospect of losing $30.
the "keep $20" option, volunteers played it safe and gambled
only 43% of the time.
asked if they wanted to "lose $30", they gambled on 62% of
to gamble was irrational, since in every case the amount of
money they stood to gain was the same, while everything could
be lost by gambling.
scans revealed that the amygdala fired up when subjects either
chose to keep a sure gain or decided to gamble in the face
of certain loss.
region, which controls emotion and plays a role in the "fight
or flight" reaction to perceived threats, appeared to be pushing
people to keep sure money, or to gamble instead of losing.
situations an emotional reaction was involved, which in the
case of gamblers triggered an irrational response.
researcher Benedetto de Martino said: "It is well known that
human choices are affected by the way in which a question
study provides neurobiological evidence that an amygdala-based
emotional system underpins this biasing of human decisions.
we found that people are rational, or irrational, to widely
the amygdala was active in all participants, regardless of
whether they behaved rationally or not.
rational individuals there was greater activation of the orbitofrontal
cortex, a part of the brain which deals with higher executive
functions such as reasoning and planning.
suggested that people who behaved rationally were better able
to manage or override their emotional responses.
When you overreact to situations, or have problems with anger
management, even the most minor snafu can cause you to storm
out of the room, slam down the phone, or shut down entirely.
Its as if you cant help it -- the reaction is
as automatic as a mallet to the knee.
Reveals That Anger and Emotional Responses May Not Be Your
New research indicates that habitual, knee-jerk responses
go way back to our childhood.
we learned to adapt to our families idiosyncrasies as
a way of survival. In the past, psychologists referred to
these coping mechanisms as baggage, but science
has now shown us that these responses are actually hard-wired
into our brains. And when our responses are ingrained, they
become our filtering system for future incidents.
words, if something happens today that the brain reads as
similar to something that happened in your 20s, your brain
will respond as if it were the first time even though you
may be in your 50s or 60s and beyond.
Familys Example: Response to Yelling
Lets say a child comes from a home where the parents
fight frequently. That child is going to associate yelling
with bad feelings. As an adult he is likely to shut down when
his spouse raises her voice, just like when he was a kid --
running to his room, closing the door, and essentially blocking
out the noise.
this mean that if you come from a family of yellers you are
doomed to hide under your bed every time someone raises a
voice? Not necessarily. Recent research indicates that the
brain continues to grow throughout our lives, and old patterns
can be released as new ones are formed in your baby boomer
Management Help Is On the Way
The way to practice anger management and avoid knee-jerk reactions
is to establish new brain connections. You do this by refocusing
your attention to a different outcome or possibility.
you can foster these new connections in your brain, you have
to be aware of the old brain triggers.
easy exercise can help you improve anger management and start
"rewiring" your brain to better control those over-reactions.
Practicing this exercise will help you make positive changes
in your life.
When you find yourself projecting past experience onto
a present one, try to imagine alternative ways to handle
the situation. For example, lets say you have
lunch plans with a friend who cancels at the last minute.
Immediately, you feel an overwhelming sense of hurt
and rejection, which is how you always feel in similar
situations. This indicates a past pattern! Be conscious
of this and take a step back to recognize it.
Next, approach the situation from an entirely different
perspective. You might try humor to deflect the bad
feelings, thinking to yourself, Gee, I guess its
my deodorant. Or you could choose the direct approach
and ask your friend if you have done something to upset
her. Or take the practical route and decide that your
friend is just overbooked, overextended, or over-promised,
and give her a get-out-of-jail-free card. (Hint: If
you have difficulty coming up with alternative ways
to handle the situation, think about how someone else
-- your mother, a childhood friend, or an admired acquaintance
-- might handle the same situation.)
in New Choices:
Next, replay the actual situation as vividly as possible:
the phone ringing, the sound of your friends voice,
the awkward goodbyes, and imagine yourself carrying
out one of your new solutions. Maybe you decide that
being understanding of your friends busy schedule
is the best choice.
Replay the phone call and plug in your new behavior
(the understanding you) rather than playing out your
old behavior of feeling rejected and hurt.
the Anger Management Changes Last
Before long, you will begin to see a slight shift in how you
feel. Every time you repeat this exercise you will refocus
your attention on a new outcome. This will rewire your brain,
make new neural connections, improve your anger management
and make positive changes in your life.