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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

For the most part, human decision-making is well captured by the assumption that we act in order to maximize benefits. However, the assumption that humans are rational agents fails to account for many interesting nuances of human behavior. This chapter examines three instances in which our behavior violates basic tenets of rationality. In order to shed light on the underlying mechanisms that may govern these behaviors, the chapter discusses the role that neuroscience has played in understanding the cognitive processes that underlie these behaviors. One theme from this work is that decisions arise from the combined activity of multiple functionally distinct neural systems. Broadly, these findings support the many “dual system” theories from decision science in that the processes that underlie decision-making fall into two qualitatively distinct categories: one is automatic and rapid, while the other is associated with cognitive control and deliberative thought. Overall, and in a relatively short time, cognitive neuroscience has contributed to our theoretical understanding of choice behavior by lending support for such dual system models of decision-making and opening the door to understanding how these systems interact during choice. This input from cognitive neuroscience will certainly increase in its scope as the details of these choice dynamics become better understood with future research.

Keywords: decision-making, rational agent theory, expected utility theory, multiple-systems approach, ultimatum game, intertemporal choice, framing

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