Cognitive Illusions
Start writing a post
Health and Wellness

Are You REALLY Making Your Own Decisions?

Our brains can be deceived, and it's a lot easier than you think.

153
Are You REALLY Making Your Own Decisions?
https://unsplash.com/photos/08swtCO0Syg

The human brain is an incredible organ; it alerts us to danger, aids us in understanding and perceiving the world, and works to protect our bodies. Without our brain, we would not exist. We would not be able to think, move, perceive, or be. Our brain aids us in so many different ways; however, just like anything, it is not perfect. Our brains can be deceived. One of the ways in which this is possible is through the framing effect; this is an example of a cognitive illusion, which asserts that people react to a certain choice or option in different ways depending on how it is presented or "framed" (e.g. as a loss or as a gain). How questions, options, and choices are presented to people matter; it could dictate whether or not you make a rational or an irrational decision. Through analysis of the amygdala and an example of cognitive bias from behavioral economist Dan Ariely, we can better understand how and why we make particular decisions.

Our brain has numerous structures with diverse functions; however, one, particularly crucial to our decision-making abilities, is the amygdala. Now consider these next two, separate scenarios.

1) You start with $0. Now you get to choose whether to have a 50/50 gamble of gaining $50 or a 100% chance of gaining $20.

2) You start with $50. Now you get to choose whether to have a 50/50 gamble of losing $50 or a 100% chance of losing $30.

Through fMRI analysis (a technique which measures brain activity), one is able to observe that some brain areas show opposite patterns of activity for the same options. This means that our brain thinks and responds differently when considering the same options presented or framed, in different ways. For each scenario (1 and 2), what did you choose? In scenario 1, most people chose the 100% chance of gaining $20, avoiding the gamble. In scenario 2, the majority of individuals chose the 50/50 gamble of losing $50, avoiding the sure loss of $30. In the above scenarios, the overall options are the same: $20 for certain or a 50/50 gamble of $50. However, depending on how the scene is framed, our brain responds differently. The amygdala is the brain structure responsible for driving our inconsistent or irrational decision-making. The amygdala, generally, aims to avoid certain losses and uncertain gains; however, there are cases where the amygdala can be "overridden."

The framing effect is one example of a cognitive bias; however, Dan Ariely provides another example to consider. Taken from an ad in The Economist, Dan Ariely tested the following three choices on 100 MIT students, simply asking "What would you choose?"

  1. Obtain an online subscription for $59
  2. Obtain a print subscription for $125
  3. Obtain both (an online & print subscription) for $125

The results from this test showed that the majority of students (84%) wanted the combo deal of both, or choice 3. Nobody wanted the dominant choice 2, and the rest (16%) chose the online subscription. Now, this may not seem very interesting yet, but Ariely took this even farther. When you have an option nobody wants; you remove it. Ariely tested these choices again on 100 different MIT students; however, he removed the second choice. These results were far more interesting: the most popular option (choice 3 -- both subscriptions) became the least popular (with 32% of students choosing it) resulting in the rest choosing the online subscription (68%). Ariely asserts that option 2 (the print subscription for $125) may have been useless in the sense that nobody wanted it; however, it was not useless in the sense that it aided people in figuring out what they wanted. Ariely clarifies by saying that we do not actually know our preferences that well, and due to this, we are susceptible to influences from external forces (aka. the defaults or particular options presented to us).

Cognitive illusions, or decision-making illusions, influence not only our way of thought but also our behavior. Through analysis of the amygdala, we know that simply how a question is presented, results in different brain activity. Therefore, the framing effect is capable of influencing the decisions we make, simply by presenting is as a gain or loss. Furthermore, through Dan Ariely's experiment, we understand that additional options also influence the way we approach a decision. Several options result in them being weighted differently in our brain; therefore, influencing our decision-making. Depending on how information or decisions are shown, presented, or shaped can affect what we do. The brain can be fooled. It can be misleading and it can be lead to an irrational decision. It is important to keep this in mind, in order to try and understand how to "override" the amygdala and come to a rational, and truly desirable solution. So next time you are presented with options, are you really making your own decision? Or has it already been decided for you?


Included is a link to the TEDTalk starring Dan Ariely, where he discusses cognitive illusions and decision-making.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Featured

5 Cakes You Need to Try This Winter

Spending the winter trying different cakes can be a great way to combat seasonal depression. Lift the spirits of your entire family by trying these five cakes.

11689
Try This Winter

The winter can be a dull time spent indoors with very little change. But, it doesn't have to be that way. There are plenty of ways to spice up your daily routine, and dessert is one of them.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

5 Reasons to Consider a Career as a Defense Lawyer

Lawyers are supposed to be unbiased. Lawyers are trained to look at both sides of an issue and give equal weight to each side. It is meant to be their mantra, "My client is innocent until proven guilty."

88846
Career as a Defense Lawyer

Lawyers are supposed to be unbiased. Lawyers are trained to look at both sides of an issue and give equal weight to each side. It is meant to be their mantra, "My client is innocent until proven guilty." But if you're thinking about becoming a defense attorney, it's not this pretty simple. Defense lawyers argue that their clients are innocent because they don't want their actions to seem suspect in any way. They essentially say for the sake of the argument itself. If you're trying to decide whether or not becoming a defense attorney is something you would like to do, here are five reasons why it's worth considering:

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

What Everyone Should Know About Online Degrees

Nowadays, many working adults, high school graduates, and retired lifelong learners are choosing to advance their careers, lives, and personal knowledge by completing school at home.

192469
Online Degrees

The rising popularity of online college and graduate school degrees has completely changed the face of education and student life. It's no longer necessary to pack up all your belongings and head off to a distant locale in order to earn a diploma. Nowadays, many working adults, high school graduates, and retired lifelong learners are choosing to advance their careers, lives, and personal knowledge by completing school at home.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

What I am thankful for

I am saying one thing that I am thankful each day for until Thanksgiving. You try it to it will bring you joy.

145347
It's Thanksgiving time
Element5 Digital

November 1st, I am thankful for God and Jesus. I put my faith in them, they protect and help me through the happy and the sad in life. I could not imagine a world without them.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Chatting with the Iron Boy Himself Arthur Bozikas

Arthur Bozikas has penned a memoir that is heart-breaking and gutsy, as well as being full of hope and gratitude. This book is guaranteed to lift up readers and have them believing in the resilience and transcendence of the human spirit, making it a must read for years to come.

94118
Arthur Bozikas

Arthur Bozikas has penned a memoir that is heart-breaking and gutsy, as well as being full of hope and gratitude. This book is guaranteed to lift up readers and have them believing in the resilience and transcendence of the human spirit, making it a must read for years to come.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments