Decision Making and the Brain


Course Description

This course will explore how individuals make decisions, and what different parts of the brain contribute to decision-making. The first part of the course focuses on the psychology of decision making. Often decisions are irrational (non-normative) by some definition. As students learn how people make decisions, the knowledge can be applied to influence decision-makers toward particular choices. The second part of the course begins with a brief overview of cognitive neuroscience methods, and then it focuses on a number of exciting recent advances in the cognitive neuroscience of decision-making, including the new field ofneuroeconomics. The course will explore how individuals decide what they perceive, decide what they want, and decide what to do. We will explore how brain activity leads to non-normative decisions, and how emotional and social factors influence decision-making processes in the brain. We will also briefly explore some relevant ethical and philosophical issues, such as whether or not individuals with specific kinds of brain damage should be held responsible for poor decisions or criminal behavior. Students will be assigned readings from the required texts as well as selected readings from primary source research articles.