Better Than Conscious?

Decision Making, the Human Mind, and Implications For Institutions

Conscious control enables human decision makers to override routines, to exercise willpower, to find innovative solutions, to learn by instruction, to decide collectively, and to justify their choices. These and many more advantages, however, come at a price: the ability to process information consciously is severely limited and conscious decision makers are liable to hundreds of biases. Measured against the norms of rational choice theory, conscious decision makers perform poorly. But if people forego conscious control, in appropriate tasks, they perform surprisingly better: they handle vast amounts of information; they update prior information; they find appropriate solutions to ill-defined problems.

This inaugural Strüngmann Forum Report explores the human ability to make decisions, consciously as well as without conscious control. It explores decision-making strategies, including deliberate and intuitive; explicit and implicit; processing information serially and in parallel, with a general-purpose apparatus, or with task-specific neural subsystems. The analysis is at four levels—neural, psychological, evolutionary, and institutional—and the discussion is extended to the definition of social problems and the design of better institutional interventions. The results presented differ greatly from what could be expected under standard rational choice theory and deviate even more from the alternate behavioral view of institutions. New challenges emerge (for example, the issue of free will) and some purported social problems almost disappear if one adopts a more adequate model of human decision making.

Table of Contents

  1. Contents
  2. Forum
  3. Contributors
  4. Preface
  5. 1. Better Than Conscious? The Brain, the Psyche, Behavior, and Institutions
  6. 2. Conscious and Nonconscious Processes: Distinct Forms of Evidence Accumulation?
  7. 3. The Role of Value Systems in Decision Making Peter Dayan
  8. 4. Neurobiology of Decision Making: An Intentional Framework
  9. 5. Brain Signatures of Social Decision Making
  10. 6. Neuronal Correlates of Decision Making
  11. 7. The Evolution of Implicit and Explicit Decision Making
  12. 8. Passive Parallel Automatic Minimalist Processing
  13. 9. How Culture and Brain Mechanisms Interact in Decision Making
  14. 10. Marr, Memory, and Heuristics
  15. 11. Explicit and Implicit Strategies in Decision Making
  16. 12. How Evolution Outwits Bounded Rationality: The Efficient Interaction of Automatic and Deliberate Processes in Decision Making and Implications for Institutions
  17. 13. The Evolutionary Biology of Decision Making
  18. 14. Gene-Culture Coevolution and the Evolution of Social Institutions
  19. 15. Individual Decision Making and the Evolutionary Roots of Institutions
  20. 16. The Neurobiology of Individual Decision Making, Dualism, and Legal Accountability
  21. 17. Conscious and Nonconscious Cognitive Processes in Jurors' Decisions
  22. 18. Institutions for Intuitive Man
  23. 19. Institutional Design Capitalizing on the Intuitive Nature of Decision Making
  24. Name Index
  25. Subject Index