Two Myths About Somatic Markers

Publication Year:
Usage 1324
Downloads 1324
Social Media 1
Tweets 1
Repository URL:
Linquist, Stefan; Bartol, Jordan
preprint description
Research on patients with damage to ventromedial frontal cortices suggests a key role for emotions in practical decision making. This field of investigation is often associated with Antonio Damasio’s Somatic Marker Hypothesis–a putative account of the mechanism by which autonomic tags guide decision making in typical individuals. Here we discuss two ‘myths’ surrounding the direction and interpretation of this research. First, it is often assumed that there is a single somatic marker hypothesis. As others have noted, however, Damasio’s ‘hypothesis’ admits of multiple interpretations (Colombetti, [2008]; Dunn et al. [2006]). Our analysis builds upon this point by characterizing decision making as a multi-stage process and identifying the various potential roles for somatic markers. The second myth is that the available evidence suggests a role for somatic markers in the core stages of decision making, i.e. during the generation, deliberation or evaluation of candidate options. To the contrary, we suggest that somatic markers most likely have a peripheral role, in the recognition of decision points, or in the motivation of action. This conclusion is based on an examination of the past 25 years of research conducted by Damasio and colleagues, focusing in particular on some early experiments that have been largely neglected by the critical literature.