Inside the Brains of Jurors

When jurors consider shortening the prison sentences of convicted criminals, they use parts of the brain associated with sympathy and making moral judgments, according to new work by Caltech neuroeconomist Colin Camerer and colleagues. They found that the most lenient jurors show heightened levels of activity in a brain region associated with discomfort, pain, and imagining the pain that others feel.

Modeling Markets

Chris Shannon, the Richard Merkin Professor of Economics and Mathematics, is one of Caltech's newest faculty members. Her research involves developing mathematical models to understand financial markets and other mechanisms that allocate goods, such as auctions.

Katz Named Caltech's Inaugural Kay Sugahara Professor

Jonathan N. Katz, chair of the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, has been named the Kay Sugahara Professor of Social Sciences and Statistics. The Sugahara family endowed the new professorial chair with a $2 million gift in honor of the late Kay Sugahara.

Neuroscientists Find That Status within Groups Can Affect IQ

Our cognitive abilities and decision-making skills can be dramatically hindered in social settings where we feel that we are being ranked or assigned a status level, such as classrooms and work environments, according to new findings from a team of researchers from Caltech and four other institutions. The finding flies in the face of long-held ideas about intelligence and cognition that regard IQ as a stable, predictive measure of mental horsepower. 

Caltech Neuroscientists Pinpoint Specific Social Difficulties in People with Autism

Researchers from Caltech have isolated a very specific difference in how high-functioning people with autism think about other people, finding that—in actuality—they don’t tend to think about what others think of them at all.

Caltech Named World's Top University in New Times Higher Education Global Ranking

Caltech has been rated the world's number one university in the 2011–2012 Times Higher Education global ranking of the top 200 universities, displacing Harvard University from the top spot for the first time in the survey's eight-year history. 

Caltech Neuroscientists Record Novel Responses to Faces from Single Neurons in Humans

Responding to faces is a critical tool for social interactions between humans. Without the ability to read faces and their expressions, it would be hard to tell friends from strangers upon first glance, let alone a sad person from a happy one. Now, neuroscientists from Caltech, with the help of collaborators at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, have discovered a novel response to human faces by looking at recordings from brain cells in neurosurgical patients.

Hedging Your Bets

When making decisions based on multiple interdependent factors—such as what combination of stocks and bonds to invest in—humans look at how the factors correlate with each other, according to a new study by researchers from Caltech and University College London.

Captivated by Critters: Humans Are Wired to Respond to Animals

Some people feel compelled to pet every furry animal they see on the street, while others jump at the mere sight of a shark or snake on the television screen. No matter what your response is to animals, it may be thanks to a specific part of your brain that is hardwired to rapidly detect creatures of the nonhuman kind. In fact, researchers from Caltech and UCLA report that neurons throughout the amygdala—a center in the brain known for processing emotional reactions—respond preferentially to images of animals.

Pondering Decisions

The sky is gray, but you're not sure if the clouds will clear or rain will pour. Do you grab an umbrella when you go outside? Such decisions are filled with ambiguity, and we're faced with them daily. "Almost every decision has some ambiguity," says Kota Saito, an economist who develops empirical and mathematical models on how people make decisions—insight that can inform socioeconomic policy. This fall, he joins Caltech as an assistant professor and the newest faculty member of the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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