Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/21/monkey_brains/

Monkey brains explain nutty laws

Why politicians go bananas

By Christopher Williams

Posted in Science, 21st October 2005 13:46 GMT

American scholars have blamed the woes of the world on the primate in all of us.

A paper in the Chicago Kent Law Review say that government decisions in crisis situations are directed by the primitive inner brain. The paper was produced by a lawyer and a psychologist, who obviously know what they're talking about.

Lawmakers rushing into making hot-headed judgments lies at the heart of the problem, they say. The response to September 11 is a prime example of "Emote control" - tight security at airports is meant to save lives, but instead causes more people to drive rather than fly and so causes more deaths.

Professor Jules Lobel notes: "Fear is a particularly strong emotion, impervious to reason."

The more complex deliberative system evolved in humans so we could weigh up the long-term consequences of our actions. Moderate levels of negative emotions warn the higher brain that its slower, more reasoned powers will be required. Intensifying fear or anger will soon take over though, kicking in the faster responding primitive brain, as the paper's co-author Professor George Lowenstein explains: "One may realize the what the best course of action is but find one's self doing the opposite."

It’s not all bad though, the researchers credit emotional decision-making for putting a man on the moon, vanquishing Hitler and, er, reducing air pollution.

Emotions are also more vulnerable to manipulation by marketers, since they are attuned to respond to novelty, and visual stimulus. I'm off to order a video iPod.®