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Pre-existing brain states predict aesthetic judgments

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Abstract

Intuition and an assumption of basic rationality would suggest that people evaluate a stimulus on the basis of its properties and their underlying utility. However, various findings suggest that evaluations often depend not only on what is being evaluated, but also on contextual factors. Here we demonstrate a further departure from normative decision making: Aesthetic evaluations of abstract fractal art by human subjects were predicted from pre-stimulus patterns of BOLD fMRI signals across a distributed network of frontal regions before the stimuli were presented. This predictive power was dissociated from motor biases in favor of pressing a particular button to indicate one's choice. Our findings suggest that endogenous neural signals present before stimulation can bias decisions at multiple levels of representation when evaluating stimuli. Hum Brain Mapp 35:2924–2934, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc

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