People can struggle to accurately assess, how they feel about something, especially something they feel social pressure to enjoy, like awakening early for a yoga class.
How they really feel can often gleaned from their mood and their brain activity in reward regions, consistent with new research published in JNeurosci.
Chew, Blain & others measured participants’ mood with repeated questions and their brain activity with fMRI as they earned two kinds of rewards.
Participants chose a box to earn points tied to how much money they might earn at the end of the task, an extrinsic reward.
Then, they played a game where they navigated a cursor through on-screen barriers. They didn’t earn anything for playing the game, beyond their own satisfaction with doing well, an intrinsic reward.
The participants answered questions on how they felt throughout the study.
The research team developed a mathematical equation to find-out how much intrinsic & extrinsic rewards contributed to the participants’ mood during a particular moment.
Most of the people felt happier after earning more points, or successfully completing the game, but the contribution of either reward to happiness varied from person-to-person.
People whose happiness more swayed by intrinsic rewards had more activity in their ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a gift area, during intrinsic rewards compared to extrinsic rewards & vice-versa.
These results provide a potential avenue to assess-preferences without outright asking.
The findings were published in The Journal Of Neuroscience.