I interviewed Darren Schreiber on February 23 rd . This is part two of a two part interview.
Here's a link to part one of the interview
Here's a link to the audio podcast.
Thanks to Don Caldarazzo for doing the transcript.
Eric Schreiber Bio:
by Eric schreiber
by Eric schreiber
D: So what we did with this study -- we were really lucky. Other researchers had been funded to do research on drug addiction and other forms of addiction, and had given what they call the "Risky Gains Task" to large groups of people. So this was funded by the NIH and a bunch of other groups, trying to get a better sense of how the brain functions. In particular, in this group they were looking at some veterans, and ordinary citizens as well - a large group of subjects, and as they brain imaged them, what they asked them to do was what they called a Risky Gains Path.
[In] the Risky Gains Path, they basically give you twenty  cents, and if you hit the button you get to take the twenty cents. Or you can let it ride, and you can risk doubling that to forty cents - or losing forty cents. And if you win the forty cents you can gamble again, and have it become positive 80 cents - or lose 80 cents. So there is increasing risk and increasing gains as you play this game, and they brain image people while they were doing a series of these trials of this game again and again. I think about it as like blackjack in Vegas and doubling down; you increase the amount of money that you're wagering with each round. They then looked at the subjects that were doing this and then found some patterns of different ways that that people approach risk based on addiction.
We came to that group of researchers, my friend and colleague James Fowler and I, and put together a large group of researchers to look at this data, taking the people who had participated in the previous study and matching their names to publicly available voter registration files. So, in California, when you register to vote as a Democrat, Republican or whatever party, that's public record and we just took the records and matched them to the names of the participants in this study, and were able then to find out whether people registered Republican or Democrat. We looked at the way Republicans and Democrats can look to see about their gambling behavior first off, and what we found is you can't tell whether somebody is Republican or Democrat by how they gamble.
So, there's no difference in the behavior of the two: you couldn't go to Las Vegas and find out whether someone is a Democrat because they held on a sixteen. You can only do that by (we found later on) looking at the brain imaging data and seeing the patterns that differentiate Republicans and Democrats.