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The neural basis of belief updating and rational decision making


Achtziger, Anja; Alós-Ferrer, Carlos; Hügelschäfer, Sabine; Steinhauser, Marco (2014). The neural basis of belief updating and rational decision making. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(1):55-62.

Abstract

Rational decision making under uncertainty requires forming beliefs that integrate prior and new information through Bayes’ rule. Human decision makers typically deviate from Bayesian updating by either overweighting the prior (conservatism) or overweighting new information (e.g. the representativeness heuristic). We investigated these deviations through measurements of electrocortical activity in the human brain during incentivized probability-updating tasks and found evidence of extremely early commitment to boundedly rational heuristics. Participants who overweight new information display a lower sensibility to conflict detection, captured by an event-related potential (the N2) observed around 260 ms after the presentation of new information. Conservative decision makers (who overweight prior probabilities) make up their mind before new information is presented, as indicated by the lateralized readiness potential in the brain. That is, they do not inhibit the processing of new information but rather immediately rely on the prior for making a decision.

Abstract

Rational decision making under uncertainty requires forming beliefs that integrate prior and new information through Bayes’ rule. Human decision makers typically deviate from Bayesian updating by either overweighting the prior (conservatism) or overweighting new information (e.g. the representativeness heuristic). We investigated these deviations through measurements of electrocortical activity in the human brain during incentivized probability-updating tasks and found evidence of extremely early commitment to boundedly rational heuristics. Participants who overweight new information display a lower sensibility to conflict detection, captured by an event-related potential (the N2) observed around 260 ms after the presentation of new information. Conservative decision makers (who overweight prior probabilities) make up their mind before new information is presented, as indicated by the lateralized readiness potential in the brain. That is, they do not inhibit the processing of new information but rather immediately rely on the prior for making a decision.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Language:English
Date:29 January 2014
Deposited On:08 Jan 2021 14:33
Last Modified:12 Jan 2021 02:41
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1749-5016
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nss099

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