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Decision-Making: (Part 2)Dog Brain or Human in Control?

Posted Oct 23 2008 9:02pm

Experiments have shown healthy adults to take a bet even when they are sure to lose, when they can also make their opponent lose. The desire to punish the opponent overrides the desire to win a little bit of money. Clearly, we are not always logical.

We have dog brains with a human cortex on top. Although our cortexes represent all that is human, logical, rational, and civilized, our animal tendencies are not quiet. They sometimes win the argument over our civilized brain, and make decisions contrary to rationality.

(Here's a thought: maybe this is what happens when politicians decide to go to war?)

Emotion and Reason

Is this a good thing or not? There’s something critical to decision-making in both parts of the brain, the emotional and the rational. Effective decisions come from evaluating input from both parts.

You don’t have to be a neuroscientist to see how an emotional decision can badly distort judgment. We’ve all been there. Parents see this everyday in their children. But as adults, we are also prone to impulse and instant gratification. Anyone who’s ever been shopping or gambling knows the experience.

Risk and Reward

Much of the traffic between the primitive and modern parts of our brains is devoted to the conscious calculation of risks and rewards. As humans, we are unique because we can look out to the future and visualize the consequences of a decision or action. This sets us apart from dogs and other mammals.

We can contemplate what might flow from a decision to chase an immediate gratification. We get a thrill or immediate pleasure just from the prospect of future gratification.

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