To make advantageous decisions in a changing world, we must learn from new observations.
How quickly we learn should depend on the context: in stable but noisy environments, new observations should be given limited weight, whereas volatile environments require faster updating. My work uses eye tracking and brain imaging to investigate how decision-makers incorporate new information into their existing knowledge. These methods allow us to capture the richness of an individual’s subjective predictions, and investigate the effects of uncertainty and reward on sensory and cognitive representations.
This work to understand human decision-making is critical to a healthy and equitable society, and is especially important when it comes to behavior that deviates from expectations. When thinking about the domains of economics and health, for instance, there are myriad examples of decisions that seem “irrational:” choosing a donut over an apple, or $10 now instead of $12 later. These decisions defy our sense of logic, but they are incredibly common. My work seeks to further our understanding of how people take in new information and integrate it with existing knowledge to make decisions in a dynamic world. A full description of how people do this will allow us to craft better policy, promote health and prosperity, and support our national defense, taking into account the realities of human “irrationality.”