Scans reveal why some people make sound choices
Researchers, after analyzing brain scans, have figured out why some people have better insight into their choices than others.
We're constantly evaluating our options and making decisions based on available information. For example, investment bankers have to be confident that they're making the right choice when deciding where to put their clients' money.
Researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London, led by professor Ray Dolan, have pinpointed specific brain areas that compute both the value of the choices we have and our confidence in those choices, giving us the ability to know what we want.
The team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure activity in the brains of hungry volunteers while they made choices between food items that they would later eat, the journal Nature Neuroscience reports.
To determine the subjective value of the snack options, the participants were asked to indicate how much they would be willing to pay for each snack. Then they were asked to report how confident they were about making the right choices, according to a University College statement.
It has previously been shown that a region at the front of the brain, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, is important for working out the value of decision options.
The new findings reveal that the level of activity in this area is also linked to the level of confidence participants placed on choosing the best option.
Steve Fleming, Wellcome postdoctoral fellow, now based at New York University, says: "We found that people's confidence varied from decision to decision. While we knew where to look for signals of value computation, it was very interesting to also observe neural signals of confidence in the same brain region."