Money can’t buy you love. It’s assumed, though, that it can buy loyalty—at least brand loyalty. But a new study shows that people with true expertise in a subject have some immunity to the siren song of corporate sponsorship. The work appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Ulrich Kirk, Ann Harvey and P. Read Montague, Domain expertise insulates against judgment bias by monetary favors through a modulation of ventromedial prefrontal cortex]
We worry about bias in all walks of life, from the lab to the legislature. Because “gifts” from special interest groups, whether pharma companies or political action committees, could sway the opinions of decision-makers.
To examine the relationship between gratuities and opinion, researchers asked 20 art experts and 20 non-experts to view a series of paintings. But first, subjects were shown the logo of a fictitious company that would be giving them $300 for participating.
Turns out the non-experts were partial to paintings that were paired with the sponsor’s logo. That preference went hand in hand with the activation of a part of the brain involved in value judgment. The experts, on the other hand, showed no such bias. They switched on another part of the brain that apparently overrode the region won over by the cash.
So experts may be immune to subconscious bribery. But standard yes-men are still a dime a dozen.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]