Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Decision Making

by MeganN, This post originally appeared at Future Science Leaders.

For as long as I can remember, decision making has not been one of my skills.  Even when I was young, I would end up crying over the simplest decisions that needed to be made.  My anthem was the song, “Should I Stay or Should I go” by The Clash.  Decision making, even today, makes me anxious.  Albeit, I’ve gotten better as I’ve grown up but it’s still very hard.
Where does my characteristic horrible decision making come from?
I think this issue re-introduces the everlasting struggle between determining if tendencies come from the way we grow and develop or characteristics that we are born with.  Our dispositions are incredibly variable.  For this reason, the scientific clues are the ones that interest me.
The prefrontal cortex is the section of the brain that has been related to decision making.  Interestingly, many authors have previously shown links between certain brain regions and our personalities, (DeYoung et al., 2010) Decision making may also be explained by how certain parts of our brain have developed.
An important realization is that there are so many different types of decisions.  We make decisions under stress or sometimes with complete confidence.  Decisions are often impromptu but other times, they are meticulously thought out for days.    All these different decisions often involve different combinations of areas in our brain.
A few months ago, TIME magazine explained how different parts of the brain are involved in cognitive control decisions, which is how you behave, versus value-based decisions like deciding whether or not to have an extra slice of greasy pizza.  Jan Glasher, from the California Institute of Technology verifies this by stating, “Cognitive control and value-based decision-making tasks appear to depend on different brain regions within the prefrontal cortex.”
The brain is an amazingly complex organ which I would love to learn more about in the future!
DeYoung C. G., Hirsh J. B., Shane M. S., Papademetris X., Rajeevan N., Gray J. R. (2010). “Testing predictions from personality neuroscience”Psychological Science 21 (6): 820–828. doi:10.1177/0956797610370159PMC 3049165PMID 20435951.

About this contributor: I’m a 17 year old health nut from Vancouver, BC. I love running, volunteering, leadership, and of course, science! I hope to one day go into a career in medicine. 

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