From choosing food to solving mathematical problems, it's pleasure which is involved in all types of decision-making, says a new study.
Researchers at University College London have carried out the study and found that everyday decisions are taken with one goal in mind - the pursuit of pleasure. In fact, they've discovered that a reward chemical in the brain plays a role in the choices people make.
According to the researchers, the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps transmit signals between nerve cells, is linked to reward-seeking behaviour. It generates pleasant feelings that are associated with certain kinds of stimulus, such as sex or food.
In humans, the chemical is also believed to be an important factor in drug addiction. And, the latest research
suggests that ordinary decisions are driven by expectations of pleasure involving dopamine, the researchers said.
For the study, the researchers asked 61 volunteers to imagine their ideal holiday. They were then given a drug that increases dopamine activity and asked to imagine being on holiday in those destinations.
Half the volunteers were given a real drug, the other half a placebo. The next day they had to pick between pairs of destinations to which they had assigned equal ratings at the start of the study.
The participants were more likely to select destinations imagined after taking the dopamine-enhancing drug
than after taking the placebo. Their ratings for destinations visualised under the drug’s influence also increased.
"We had reason to believe that dopamine will enhance expectations of pleasure in humans. However, we were surprised at the strength of this effect. The enhancement lasted for 24 hours and was evident in almost 80 per cent of the subjects," the 'Daily Express' quoted lead researcher Dr Tali Sharot.
She thought the effect could last for weeks or even months, but this remained to be tested. "The current study highlights the neurobiological basis of this key aspect of human behaviour, providing direct evidence of a critical role for dopamine in modulating the subjective pleasure expected to be derived from future life
events," Dr Sharot said.
The findings have been published in the latest edition of the 'Current Biology' journal