Why You Shouldn’t Optimize Your Life

It was the early 1990s and researchers at The University of Iowa were looking for a simple way to determine whether someone had brain damage in their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), an area of the brain responsible for decision-making. At the time, demonstrating impairment in someone’s vmPFC wasn’t possible within a lab setting. So the researchers devised a game, later known as the Iowa gambling task (IGT), to change this.

The IGT worked as follows: You are presented with four virtual decks of cards (labeled “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D”) and some starting money (see image below).

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