Posts Tagged ‘tryptophan’

Tryptophan and Game Theory

November 21, 2007

l-tryptophan-3d-sticks.pngYou may have heard the fact that turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses in the production of serotonin. You may also have heard that it’s the tryptophan that causes post-Thanksgiving drowsiness.

This direct link is questionable (see, for example, Live Science). However, there’s a new connection afoot: tryptophan has been shown to affect trust and cooperation. And the study measuring that effect used Game Theory!

According to ABC News earlier today, neuroeconomists [did you even know there was such a job title?] used the Prisoner’s Dilemma to measure cooperation. Volunteers who drank a substance reducing their tryptophan levels were significantly less likely to cooperate than those with normal tryptophan levels, and they were also more suspicious of other players. Does this mean that eating turkey will make you more cooperative? Probably not (the levels are likely too low to make any difference), but we’re still happy to have an Actual Math Post related to Thanksgiving Day.