As the current financial chaos moves toward some kind of resolution, there will no doubt be plenty of Monday morning quarterbacking to explain what went wrong. One group that one wouldn’t expect to have explanations are neuroscientists. As it turns out, neuroscience researchers actually can shed some light on why things went so wrong.
One of the first questions that everyone asks is how so many seemingly intelligent people could make so many errors in judgment. One simple answer, of course, is greed – at least some individuals saw a way to profit personally by making poor business decisions (loaning money to people unlikely to be able to pay it back, insuring such loans, rating securities based on these shaky loans, and so on). While there’s little doubt in my mind that personal interest was the biggest underlying factor, systemic factors and even biology likely played a role. By systemic factors I mean the way many of these markets were structured. Writing a shaky loan sounds like a bad business decision, but if there are buyers for loans of this type perhaps it really isn’t a bad decision for the originator. But, on to the brain science… […]