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The Neuroscience of Decision Making Explained in 30 Seconds - Wired

The Neuroscience of Decision Making Explained in 30 Seconds - Wired
6:11 AM Mar 10 2014

Stashed in: Emotion, Decisions, Brain

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Well said:

Is it possible to explain the neuroscience of decision making in 30 seconds? I had a go as one of my contributions to a new book called 30-Second Brain that’s released in the USA today. Here’s what I wrote:

From Plato’s charioteer controlling the horse of passion, to Freud’s instinctual id suppressed by the ego, there’s a long tradition of seeing reason and emotion as being in opposition to one another. Translating this perspective to neuroscience, one might imagine that successful decision making depends on the rational frontal lobes controlling the animalistic instincts arising from emotional brain regions that evolved earlier (including the limbic system, found deeper in the brain). But the truth is quite different—effective decision making is not possible without the motivation and meaning provided by emotional input. Consider Antonio Damasio’s patient, “Elliott.” Previously a successful businessman, Elliott underwent neurosurgery for a tumor and lost a part of his brain—the orbitofrontal cortex—that connects the frontal lobes with the emotions. He became a real life Mr. Spock, devoid of emotion. But rather than this making him perfectly rational, he became paralyzed by every decision in life. Damasio later developed the somatic marker hypothesis to describe how visceral emotion supports our decisions. For instance, he showed in a card game that people’s fingers sweat prior to picking up from a losing pile, even before they recognize at a conscious level that they’ve made a bad choice.

If 30-seconds is too long for you, here’s the message in 3-seconds:

Feelings provide the basis for human reason—brain-damaged patients left devoid of emotion struggle to make the most elementary decisions.

Alternatively, if you fancy digging a little deeper, here’s what the book calls my “3-minute brainstorm”:

Although we need emotions to make decisions, their input means we’re not the cold rational agents that traditional economics assumes us to be. For instance, Daniel Kahneman demonstrated with Amos Tversky that the negative emotional impact of losses is twice as intense as the positive effect of gains, which affects our decision making in predictable ways. For one thing it explains our stubborn reluctance to write off bad investments.

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