Peter Politser, MD, PHD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
Work: +1 401-722-3560
Research in neuroeconomics asks: What happens in the brain when people make decisions about money? Dr. Politser's forthcoming book Neurorationality (Oxford) guides the use of the neuroeconomic methods. The methods describe responses to risk and reward. They also identify decision making inconsistencies: e.g., continuing unhealthy habits that give less and less pleasure. Their results may help us categorize decision disorders in patients who ignore medical advice or develop mental illness.
BiographyDr. Peter E. Politser
is a practicing psychiatrist who currently teaches residents about the neurobiology and psychopharmacology of mental disorders. He joined Gateway, Inc. and the Department of Family Medicine in 1999 after serving on the Decision Science staff at MIT, the medical staff at U Mass Medical Center, and the Health Decision Science faculty at Harvard.
Research DescriptionDr. Politser's prior writing has concentrated on the psychology of medical decision-making and the evaluation of medical programs or technologies. It has been cited in diverse theoretical fields--from biostatistics and decision science, to computing and cognitive science, to economics and management science. It also has been referenced in publications on anthropology, sociology, education, behavioral sciences and the law and at least 19 other fields of medicine and public health.(clinical chemistry, psychiatry, neurology, epidemiology, pediatrics, urology, family medicine, internal medicine, surgery, oncology, gerontology, obstetrics and gynecology, also pathology, nursing, and social work, as well as pain, allergy, transfusion and transplantation medicine.
Dr. Politser's current research is in neuroeconomicsa new field that asks: What happens in the brain when people make decisions about money? The field promises to clarify economic questionssuch as, why people save, strike, or buy stocks; but it is also relevant to clinical problemssuch as why people smoke, steal, or overspend. Dr. Politser recently has shown how neuroeconomic methods may clarify what happens in the brain when patients envision risks or recall side effects and develop mistrust, expectations, or habits. The research will suggest how to (1) identify decision making disorders (2) help patients follow medical advice; and (3) understand the influences of common medications on decisions.
Dr. Politser's forthcoming book, Neurorationality (Oxford) is a guide to the use of methods in neuroeconomicsthe new science of rational choice. It is the first book to present guidelines for interpreting the research or for determining its relevance to the most basic question asked by many disciplines: what are the neural correlates of rationality or "good sense. It is also the first book to apply the new science to mental health and other concepts of rationality. The book shows how neuroeconomic methods may ultimately clarify some origins of good or poor sense. For example, neurobiologic research may tell us why some patients have inconsistent values--involving what they recall, experience, expect or want. They may also show inconsistencies between what they intend to do, what they actually do, and what they feel they should do.
Detailed Research Summary
What happens in the brain when people make decisions about money? Research on this topic has generated intense interest in the popular media, business communities, and diverse scientific disciplines, including economics, psychology, education, political science the law, management, marketing, and mental health. Yet, to date, no guidelines exist for interpreting the research or for determining its relevance to the most basic question asked by many disciplines: what are the neural correlates of rationality or "good sense"?
The present book translates neuroeconomics into the neurorationalitya broader mosaic of capacities than those identified by neo-classical economics. It discusses different behavioral economic models, which enable a broader variety of neural measures of specific capacities as well as neurobiologic tests of evaluation consistency. For example, the methods identify inconsistencies in valuessuch as what we recall, experience, expect or want. The methods also provide neural yardsticks for measuring disturbances in decision making traitsincluding desire, regret, expectation, learning, and aversion to risk or delay. In addition, the book introduces a new science of the neuroepidemiology" of decision making, which categorizes the neuroeconomic studies according to the different levels of rational function they address
The results may help us interpret neuroeconomic results and inject more sense into different concepts of good sense, including not only economic rationality and mental health but also legal competency and emotional intelligence. For example, they suggest how disturbances in neuroeconomic measures may define mental disorders more precisely and better predict the value of treatments. The methods also may inform ethical debates about future technologies intended to enhance even normal function. The results may help us seek a better balance between normal capacities, which are the product of evolution, and a possibly more rational use of these capacities, which promises greater well-being in the modern world.
Grants and AwardsVisiting Professor, University of Leiden Medical School,
National Library of Medicine,
Research Career Development Award 1983
Andrew K. Mellon Foundation Scholar 1982
Honors Program in Medical Education, Northwestern University
Medical School, 1966
AffiliationsSociety for Neuroeconomics
Society for Cognitive Neuroscience
Society for Impulsivity
Society for Neuropsychoeconomics
Funded ResearchGRANT SUPPORT
Principal Investigator, NIMH Individual Postdoctoral NRS Award, "Clinical Decision-Making," 1977-80, $49,000.
Principal Investigator, National Library of Medicine, New Investigator Research Grant, "Single-Peaked Functions and Diagnostic Screening," 1980-83, $100,000.
Principal Investigator, National Center for Health Services Research, Grant #HS04726, "The Evaluation and Use of
repeated Tests," 1981-82, $19,500.
Co-Investigator, Veterans Administration Research Grant, "The Health Decision Model in Coronary Artery Disease," 1981-83, $30,000.
Principal Investigator, Research Initiation Grant, Case Western Reserve University, 1982-83, $2,210.
Principal Investigator, Keck Research Scholar Grant,1982-83, $4,972.
Principal Investigator, Veterans Administration Health Services Research Field Program Grant, "Data Transformations to Enhance Laboratory Utilization," 1983-84, $10,000.
Consultant, Veterans Administration Health Services Research
Field Program Grant, "Critical Care Resource Allocation: A
Cost-Effective Analysis," 1983-84, $10,000.
Consultant, Veterans Administration Health Services Research
Field Program Grant, "Managing Endometriosis: A Decision
Analytic Approach," 1983-84 $5,000.
Principal Investigator, Research Grant, National Institute of Health, National Library of Medicine, "Patterns, Partial
Knowledge and Test Interpretation," 1983-86, $56,000.
Studies of Decision Difficulty in Health Policy and Technology Assessment, BMRS Grant, Harvard University,1987-88, $9,900.
Principal Investigator, Milton Fund Award, Harvard University, "An Intelligent Display System for Medical Education,"1987-88,$6,000.
Co-Investigator, National Institutes of Mental Health, "Methodologies for Prevention Research in Mental Health,"
Research Career Development Award, National Institute of Health, National Library of Medicine, 1983-88, $216,000.
Principal Investigator, National Science Foundation, "Decision Analyses and Dilemmas' Perceived Dimensions," 1989-93,
$86,000($132,000 with indirect costs).
Consultant, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health