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Rationality, preferences, and emotions with biological constraints: it all starts from our senses


Polanía, Rafael; Burdakov, Denis; Hare, Todd A (2024). Rationality, preferences, and emotions with biological constraints: it all starts from our senses. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 28(3):264-277.

Abstract

Is the role of our sensory systems to represent the physical world as accurately as possible? If so, are our preferences and emotions, often deemed irrational, decoupled from these 'ground-truth' sensory experiences? We show why the answer to both questions is 'no'. Brain function is metabolically costly, and the brain loses some fraction of the information that it encodes and transmits. Therefore, if brains maximize objective functions that increase the fitness of their species, they should adapt to the objective-maximizing rules of the environment at the earliest stages of sensory processing. Consequently, observed 'irrationalities', preferences, and emotions stem from the necessity for our early sensory systems to adapt and process information while considering the metabolic costs and internal states of the organism.

Abstract

Is the role of our sensory systems to represent the physical world as accurately as possible? If so, are our preferences and emotions, often deemed irrational, decoupled from these 'ground-truth' sensory experiences? We show why the answer to both questions is 'no'. Brain function is metabolically costly, and the brain loses some fraction of the information that it encodes and transmits. Therefore, if brains maximize objective functions that increase the fitness of their species, they should adapt to the objective-maximizing rules of the environment at the earliest stages of sensory processing. Consequently, observed 'irrationalities', preferences, and emotions stem from the necessity for our early sensory systems to adapt and process information while considering the metabolic costs and internal states of the organism.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Uncontrolled Keywords:Efficient coding, decision making, attention, information theory, economics, interoception
Scope:Discipline-based scholarship (basic research)
Language:English
Date:1 March 2024
Deposited On:14 May 2024 15:02
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 01:41
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1364-6613
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2024.01.003
Project Information:
  • : FunderEuropean Research Council
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  • : FunderSwiss National Science Foundation
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  • : FunderETH Zurich
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  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)