Neural Indicators of Optimal and Adaptable Decision-Makers

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Brain activity associated with deciding whether a stimulus is recognized or new. The activity reflects the decision criterion of the subjects: for individuals that are able to adapt their criterion effectively (“high shifters”), frontoparietal regions are quite active when they are cautious about their decision (low target probability condition) but not active when they are lax about their decision (high target probability condition). Individuals that do not adapt their criterion effectively (“low shifters”) do not show activation in these regions.

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Every decision we make is based on whether the available evidence exceeds a standard, or criterion, for taking an action. Decisions to take action on the battlefield must often be made quickly, in rapidly changing environments, and on the basis of uncertain evidence. Under such circumstances, it is crucial that decision-makers adapt their criterion for taking action to the current situation (e.g., being cautious about pulling the trigger when civilians are present). We use brain imaging techniques to predict the extent to which an individual adopts appropriate decision criteria and to develop methods to optimize decision performance in complex and changing environments.



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