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Better Than Conscious?Decision Making, the Human Mind, and Implications For Institutions$
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Christoph Engel and Wolf Singer

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262195805

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262195805.001.0001

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Neurobiology of Decision Making

Neurobiology of Decision Making

An Intentional Framework

Chapter:
(p.71) 4 Neurobiology of Decision Making
Source:
Better Than Conscious?
Author(s):

Michael N. Shadlen

Roozbeh Kiani

Timothy D. Hanks

Anne K. Churchland

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262195805.003.0004

The aim of statistical decision theories is to understand how evidence, prior knowledge, and values lead an organism to commit to one of a number of alternatives. Two main statistical decision theories, signal-detection theory and sequential analysis, assert that decision makers obtain evidence—often from the senses—that is corrupted by noise and weigh this evidence alongside bias and value to select the best choice. Signal-detection theory has been the dominant conceptual framework for perceptual decisions near threshold. Sequential analysis extends this framework by incorporating time and introducing a rule for terminating the decision process. This extension allows the trade-off between decision speed and accuracy to be studied, and invites us to consider decision rules as policies on a stream of evidence acquired in time. In light of these theories, simple perceptual decisions, which can be studied in the neurophysiology laboratory, allow principles that apply to more complex decisions to be exposed. The goal of this chapter is to “go beyond the data” to postulate a number of unifying principles of complex decisions based on our findings with simple decisions. We make speculative points and argue positions that should be viewed as controversial and provocative. In many places, a viewpoint will merely be sketched without going into much detail and without ample consideration of alternatives, except by way of contrast when necessary to make a point. The aim is not to convince but to pique interest. The chapter is divided into two main sections. The first suggests that an intentionbased framework for decision making extends beyond simple perceptual decisions to a broad variety of more complex situations. The second, which is a logical extension of the first, poses a challenge to Bayesian inference as the dominant mathematical foundation of decision making.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, Bayesian inference, decision making, neurobiology of, intentional action, sequential analysis organization, signal-detection theory, value-based decisions

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