Are you afraid of losing money? Science can explain why?

I remember a friend of mine once told me that if there’s one thing people are afraid of losing – its security. Security which is associated with money. My friend added that rich people are more afraid to lose their money than the less fortunate ones because the later don’t have it on the first place – of course my friend is joking.

But come to think of it, we are really afraid of losing money. We oftenly hear people asking “do you work to live? or do you live to work?”, primarily because people are so immersed in doing their work for one reason – to earn more money. So why are we so afraid to lose money? Is it just because we don’t want to lose everything that we’ve work for?

It’s not as simple as that, science has an explanation about this fear and it has something to do with our brain.

The study involved an examination of two patients whose amygdalae had been destroyed due to a very rare genetic disease; those patients, along with individuals without amygdala damage, volunteered to participate in a simple experimental economics task.

The finding, described in the latest online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), offers insight into economic behavior, and also into the role of the brain’s amygdalae, two almond-shaped clusters of tissue located in the medial temporal lobes. The amygdala registers rapid emotional reactions and is implicated in depression, anxiety, and autism.

In the task, the subjects were asked whether or not they were willing to accept a variety of monetary gambles, each with a different possible gain or loss. For example, participants were asked whether they would take a gamble in which there was an equal probability they’d win $20 or lose $5 (a risk most people will choose to accept) and if they would take a 50/50 gamble to win $20 or lose $20 (a risk most people will not choose to accept). They were also asked if they’d take a 50/50 gamble on winning $20 or losing $15—a risk most people will reject, “even though the net expected outcome is positive,” Adolphs says.

Both of the amygdala-damaged patients took risky gambles much more often than subjects of the same age and education who had no amygdala damage. In fact, the first group showed no aversion to monetary loss whatsoever, in sharp contrast to the control subjects. In other words, the two people with amygdala damage accepted risky gambles much more often than those in the control group and showed no aversion to money loss.

This is the first clear evidence of a special brain structure that is responsible for fear of such losses.


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