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PubMed | Werner Reichardt Center for Integrative Neuroscience Tuebingen
Type: | Journal: Frontiers in neuroscience | Year: 2012

We deal with risk versus uncertainty, a distinction that is of fundamental importance for cognitive neuroscience yet largely neglected. In a world of risk (small world), all alternatives, consequences, and probabilities are known. In uncertain (large) worlds, some of this information is unknown or unknowable. Most of cognitive neuroscience studies exclusively study the neural correlates for decisions under risk (e.g., lotteries), with the tacit implication that understanding these would lead to an understanding of decision making in general. First, we show that normative strategies for decisions under risk do not generalize to uncertain worlds, where simple heuristics are often the more accurate strategies. Second, we argue that the cognitive processes for making decisions in a world of risk are not the same as those for dealing with uncertainty. Because situations with known risks are the exception rather than the rule in human evolution, it is unlikely that our brains are adapted to them. We therefore suggest a paradigm shift toward studying decision processes in uncertain worlds and provide first examples.

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