2021 Worldwide Postdoc/Student Competition Winners
Empirical studies of free will in decision-making typically utilize paradigms where people are given a highly constrained set of options (usually two) to choose between. However, most real-world choices require us to choose from poorly defined and overwhelmingly large sets of options. How then do we endogenously generate a “choice sets” of viable options to choose between? Past research demonstrates an important role for automatic valuation processes: which options automatically come to mind is strongly influenced by how good they have been in the past. Yet, we can generate and select good options even when what would be good in the current context diverges strongly from what has been typically good in the past. This suggests a key role for conscious control in guiding the generation of choice sets. In this project we use fMRI to investigate the role of conscious control in generating sets of options for problems of real-world complexity.
Shao-Min (Sean) Hung, Ph.D., Caltech
Nathan Heller, Dartmouth College