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The Somatic Marker Hypotheses, and what the Iowa Gambling Task does and does not show
University of Exeter
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Oxford University Press
Damasio’s Somatic Marker Hypothesis (SMH) is a prominent neuroscientific hypothesis about the mechanisms implementing decision-making. This paper argues that, since its inception, the SMH has not been clearly formulated. It is possible to identify at least two different hypotheses, which make different predictions: SMH-G, which claims that somatic states generally implement preferences and are needed to make a decision; and SMH-S, which specifically claims that somatic states assist decision-making by anticipating the long-term outcomes of available options. This paper also argues that neither hypothesis is adequately supported empirically; the task originally proposed to test SMH is not a good test for SMH-S, and its results do not support SMH-G either. In addition, it is not clear how SMH-G could be empirically invalidated, given its general formulation. Suggestions are made that could help provide evidence for SMH-S, and make SMH-G more specific.
Cognitive Science Laboratory (Center for Mind/Brain Sciences), University of Trento (Italy); Cognitive Neuropsychology Laboratory, Harvard University
This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version (Vol.59(1), 2008, pp.51-71) is available online at: http://bjps.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/59/1/51. 24 month embargo by the publisher. Article will be released March 2010.