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neuropsychology of decision making


  • the dopamine-basal ganglia and OFC-amygdala neural pathways of regret play an important role in adaptive behaviour and decision making
  • genomic MRI studies appear to show1):
    • those who were better at being able to imagine their competitor's thinking and anticipate and respond to the actions of others (belief learning) had a variation in three genes that affect how dopamine functions in the medial prefrontal cortex.
    • those who were better at trial-and-error learning had a variation in two genes that primarily affect dopamine in the brain's striatal region

decision avoidance

  • Nero fiddling while Rome burns - occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect priorities during a crisis

conflict model of decision making

unconflicted adherence

  • ignorance is bliss
  • continuing along a decision path or plan when there does not appear to be any significant risks in doing so
  • adherence to the status quo in an unreflective manner

defensive avoidance

  • occurs when there may be risks to maintaining the status quo but the prospects for discovering better alternatives appears grim
  • evasive:
    • reminders of the decision are ignored and distractions are sought
  • avoidance of responsibility:
    • responsibility for the decision is shifted to others
  • bolstering:
    • the decision maker seeks reasons, in a biased manner, to support an inferior course of action

Rational–Emotional Model of Decision Avoidance


  • selection difficulty
    • difficult to operationalize or define independently of the variables that produce it
    • decision strategy
      • negative emotions - neuroticism, past experiences, tradeoff difficulty
      • effort/accuracy tradeoff
      • decision option attractiveness difference
      • decision option set size
      • time limitations
      • attentional focus - conflict type (approach-avoidance)
    • reason - a justification for a decision is equivalent to having a reason for selecting a particular option.
    • preference uncertainty - a state of being unsure of which of two or more options best meets one’s goals or criteria for choice.
    • degree of structure -unstructured, ill-defined decisions should be more difficult than well-defined decisions
    • attractiveness of option set
    • cultural values
  • anticipated regret or blame
    • reversibility of outcome
    • expected outcome feedback
    • anticipated future opportunities
    • mutability
      • the ease of constructing counterfactual alternatives to it
    • perceived responsibility
      • more likely to anticipate regret when they perceive themselves as personally responsible for the outcome.
    • regret aversion:
      • avoidance of making a decision which may lead to regret
    • loss aversion:
      • tendency to weight potential losses greater than potential gains of the same amount
  • cost of action or change
  • preference stability
    • the degree to which people’s values remain the same over time and thus their consecutive decisions.

decision avoidance inactions

  • status quo
    • opting for the status quo can be “rational” if either:
      • preferences are unchanged
      • there are costs for change
      • there is uncertainty regarding the consequences of non-status quo options
    • but often the decision to maintain the status quo does not have this rational reasonings and thus represents status quo bias
    • status quo options may be seen as less threatening and could thus serve to reduce negative emotion that is experienced prior to making the choice (termed anticipatory emotions).
  • omission
    • omission bias is an inflated preference for options that do not require action
  • deferral
    • an individual chooses not to choose for the time being
    • taking time to search for better alternatives
    • choosing not to purchase any of a variety of options
    • avoiding responsibility for the decision altogether
    • often associated with higher degrees of conflict
    • conflicts in a decision, such as those that put different values at odds, often lead to negative emotion
    • deferral is less likely in approach–approach conflicts (decisions between two attractive choices) than in avoidance–avoidance conflicts (choices between two unattractive options)

emotional outcomes of decision avoidance

  • experienced regret
  • fear regulation
decision_making.txt · Last modified: 2014/06/17 08:49 by

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