The nascent field of neuroeconomics seeks to ground economic decisionmaking in the biological substrate of the brain. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging of Ultimatum Game players to investigate neural substrates of cognitive and emotional processes involved in economic decision-making. In this game, two players split a sum of money;one player proposes a division and the other can accept or reject this. We scanned players as they responded to fair and unfair proposals. Unfair offers elicited activity in brain areas related to both emotion (anterior insula) and cognition (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex). Further, significantly heightened activity in anterior insula for rejected unfair offers suggests an important role for emotions in decision-making.
Sanfey, A. G., Rilling, J. K., Aronson, J. A., Nystrom, L. E., &Cohen, J. D. (2003). The neural basis of economic decision-making in the ultimatum game. Science, 300(5626), 1755-1758.