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How We Decide Jonah Lehrer. Important question: when to use rationality vs. intuition.

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Presentation on theme: "How We Decide Jonah Lehrer. Important question: when to use rationality vs. intuition."— Presentation transcript:

1 How We Decide Jonah Lehrer

2 Important question: when to use rationality vs. intuition

3 Reason vs. emotion: false dichotomy decisions DEPEND on emotion case history: tumor in orbitofrontal cortex OFC connects “primitive brain” to conscious thought

4 Feelings guide our choices rational thoughts tend to come AFTER decision has been made LeDoux: feelings = summary of unconscious info processing consciousness a small part of what brain does

5 metacognition: only in humans (??) done by “newer” parts of brain; still have a lot of “bugs” older parts of brain debugged much longer

6 dopamine—pleasure centers; helps regulate all emotions & helps us decide Shultz: “prediction neurons” if expectation confirmed: increased firing rate of “dopamine neurons”

7 if expectation disconfirmed: decreased firing rate of dopamine neurons = prediction error signal also: if expectation disconfirmed--anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)—error-related negativity signal (“oh, shit” circuit) unexpected result focuses attention ACC remembers feedback and adjusts expectations

8 Artificial Intelligence Deep Blue—chess. rigid, can’t learn from experience Tesauro—backgammon. learn from playing games (similar to tic-tac-toe matchbox computer) program predicts moves and refines predictions over thousands of games

9 Artificial Intelligence similar programs used for high rise elevators, flight schedules program finds optimal solution itself

10 Iowa Gambling Task two types of card decks one high risk, one conservative conservative has higher long-term payoff 10 cards: GSR increase for risky deck 50 cards: start choosing conservative deck more often 80 cards: can explain deck preference

11 Deliberate Practice best for improving decisions focus on mistakes, not successes “self criticism is the secret to self improvement” Dunning—”incompetence” & need to use external feedback Dweck studies

12 When do emotions mislead us? gambling: anticipation of reward excites dopamine system (note Parkinson’s ex.) unpredictable rewards—tend not to adapt incorrect beliefs cause incorrect expecations & actions e.g., hot hand in basketball e.g., finding patterns that are not there (T maze ex.)

13 emotions misleading us e.g., stock chartists Deal or No Deal—base decisions on how deal “feels” instead of rational analysis can work, but can mislead when emotions too strong (e.g., overreact to previous bad choice)

14 emotions misleading us framing: loss aversion credit cards—less emotional attachment than actual money small vs. large expenditures: stronger emotional response to large, but numerous small ones add up to more

15 emotions misleading us adjustable loans smaller payment NOW: midbrain emotion areas larger payment LATER: prefrontal cortex for rational planning decision based on which is more active brain area

16 emotions misleading us Evolutionary psych “mismatch hypothesis” our emotions evolved to solve adaptive problems in our evolutionary past; they may not be well-suited to decisions we make in modern life (as described by Loewenstein)

17 “Nudge” Thaler: we should design choice programs to make good decisions more likely e.g., his “save more tomorrow” program: ask employees to opt into savings plan that will start in a few months opt-out vs. opt-in programs

18 Self Control ability to delay gratification—a consistent personality trait depends on prefrontal cortex controlling emotion centers experts better able to control emotions in emergency situations (“deliberate calm”)

19 When to think less skilled athletes do better with less conscious control; e.g., golf studies (note: Van de Velde description not completely accurate!!) poster study: justify choice leads to less happiness with chosen poster; why?

20 When to think less too much analysis—focus on variables that don’t matter poster we are happy with should be based on emotion, not logic

21 When to think less wine tasting: if know brand or price, it affects our rating should choose blind to get what we actually like best

22 ways we are bad at math serving sizes affect how much we eat & drink how far would you drive to save $15? Ariely study & Social Security nos.

23 too much information more info—diminishing returns, then negative returns better to focus on few most important factors adding low quality info hurts

24 too much info MRI and back pain study 2/3 of asymptomatic people had MRI that looked like a problem doctors aware of this study still wanted MRI for their patients

25 Moral Decisions are based on emotions reasons (rationality) comes later siblings example personal vs. impersonal decisions: trolley examples animal examples of fairness sensitivity

26 games and fairness ultimatum game dictator game most people make fair offer to a person

27 brain and decisions Bechara—brain areas compete for control competition is mostly unconscious Knutson & Loewenstein study—consumer choice nucleus accumbens—dopamine pathways insula—aversion prefrontal cortex—rational analysis

28 Knutson & Loewenstein study could predict choice by which area most active

29 what if deadlocked? not always best to “force” a decision better to tolerate uncertainty, gather more information (unless not to decide is to decide)

30 existing beliefs confirmation bias—avoid info that contradicts existing beliefs; seek confirming info study: evaluate contradictions by Bush & Kerry

31 existing beliefs self delusion “feels good” because we enjoy feeling certain another author: overconfidence is worst cognitive bias professional pundits study—predictions worse than chance; most famous were worst predictors

32 existing beliefs ideologies can make people disregard contradictory info “prisoners of their preconceptions” real experts learn from dissonant data

33 playing poker rational approach—know odds, keep track of cards emotion—a feel for when to bluff, when to fold, etc. experience—know when to rely on math and when to go with feel use conscious mind to learn, and intuition to make choices


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