Abstract

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.

  • 1

    Introduction

  • 2

    Two Hypotheses: Somatic Markers as Embodied Preferences, and as a Source of Farsightedness

  • 3

    Lack of Evidence for Somatic Farsightedness

  • 4

    Does Making Decisions Require Somatic Markers, and can it be Shown in the Laboratory?

  • 5

    Conclusion

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