Saturday, May 30, 2020 | ePaper

Why your brain makes inconsistent choices

The brain areas that usually make rational choices sometimes make irrational ones too. This contradicts previous theories that have suggested rational and irrational decision-making are influenced by activity in separate parts of the brain, or by different thinking processes.

  • Print


Weekend Plus Desk :
conomists have noticed that people can behave inconsistently when making choices. According to economic theory, people should choose the same things every time, under the same circumstances because they are recognised as holding the same value as before. But people don't always do that. Sometimes consumers will switch their preferences, known in industry terms as ‘customer churn.’
While economists have previously called that as an error in rationality, a new Canadian study found that an important part of inconsistent choice-making is due to idiosyncratic activity in the brain areas that assess value.
“If the value of a Coke is higher to you than a Pepsi, then you should choose the Coke every single time,” explained study’s co-author Ryan Webb, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “But because of these ‘noisy’ fluctuations in neural activity, so often, the Pepsi is better than the Coke.”
Prof Webb, Vered Kurtz-David, Prof Dotan Persitz, and Prof Dino Levy from Tel Aviv University were able to observe the phenomenon by getting research volunteers to play a series of lotteries while lying inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. The fMRI monitors neural activity by detecting changes in blood flow to different parts of the brain.
The volunteers had to choose between different combinations of tokens directed towards two simultaneous lotteries, each with a 50 per cent chance of being the winner. Each volunteer played the lotteries multiple times in quick succession while inside the fMRI.
The studies showed that the areas of the brain that were most active during the most inconsistent choices were the same areas responsible for evaluating value. In other words, the brain areas that usually make rational choices sometimes make irrational ones too, suggested the study published in Nature Communications. This contradicts previous theories that have suggested rational and irrational decision-making are influenced by activity in separate parts of the brain, or by different thinking processes, an idea popularised in Daniel Kahneman's book, Thinking Fast and Slow.
The results suggest that occasional inconsistent choices are fundamental to how a typical brain works, regardless of efforts to ensure people stick religiously to their usual preferences.
Previously, a 2004-study suggested how brain battles itself over short-term rewards and long-term goals and what could be the implications right from economic theory to addiction research. The US study involved researchers at four universities who through brain imaging of 14 Princeton University student participants, studied how they made choices between small but immediate rewards or larger awards that they would receive later.
‘For example, people who are offered the choice of $10 today or $11 tomorrow are likely to choose to receive the lesser amount immediately. But if given a choice between $10 in one year or $11 in a year and a day, people often choose the higher, delayed amount,’ the study mentioned.
The study grew out of the then emerging discipline of neuroeconomics, which investigated the mental and neural processes that drive economic decision-making.
It showed that decisions involving the possibility of immediate reward activated parts of the brain influenced heavily by neural systems associated with emotion.
In contrast, all the decisions the students made - whether short- or long-term - activated brain systems that are associated with abstract reasoning.
In classic economic theory, such a choice is irrational because people are inconsistent in their treatment of the day-long time delay. While some argue that the brain has a single decision-making process with a built-in inconsistency, and others argued that the pattern results from the competing influence of two brain systems.

More News For this Category

Ways to spot false news on Facebook Weekend Plus Desk

Ways to spot false news on Facebook Weekend Plus Desk

A recent research conducted by Dhaka Tribune and the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) called the Libertas Project said that 41 per cent of respondents considered social media as

Juggling work at home with kids

Juggling work at home with kids

Weekend Plus Desk :Amid the current worldwide lockdown because of the Coronavirus outbreak, parents and kids are stuck at home. Most parents have taken to working remotely and with kids

What type of friends you should avoid

What type of friends you should avoid

Md Altaf Hussain :ometimes people need a push to get rid of the bad people in their life. Maybe they want to get rid of their friend, but they feel

Salons, customers take extra precautions amid #CoronaScare

Salons, customers take extra precautions amid #CoronaScare

Weekend Plus Desk :With the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, people are taking all possible measures to not come in contact with the infection. While

Stair workout: Exercises you can do at every staircase you find

Weekend Plus Desk :In today’s time when work occupies most of our time, taking out time for our health becomes a task. We cannot even take out a few minutes

Coronavirus: What tests should you get done

Top lifestyle choices for today’s women

Weekend Plus Desk :itness professional Nawaz Modi Singhania, who is dedicated to wellness, health and fitness, shares easy-to-follow tips and lifestyle choices for the women of today. Read on to

Coronavirus: What tests should you get done

Coronavirus: What tests should you get done

Qeekend Plus Desk :Coronavirus outbreak has spread too many countries across the globe. Bangladesh with over 3 confirmed cases of Coronavirus so far. There’s also a lot of panic across,

POEM

Yet he is the king-Shamsur RahmanThe countrymen get togetherAnd play on band and singNo crown on his headYet he is the king.On the bank of MadhumotiIn Tunghipara hamletThe blades of

POEM

To cover the universe with love-Tahia TabassumYou put a full stop thereAnd forget it without care.You have to know where to stopTo touch your victory at the top.Being able of