Creativity and human reasoning during decision-making

March 27, 2012
Modern human brain
Modern human brain. Credit: Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison Brain Collection.

A hallmark of human intelligence is the ability to efficiently adapt to uncertain, changing and open-ended environments. In such environments, efficient adaptive behavior often requires considering multiple alternative behavioral strategies, adjusting them, and possibly inventing new ones. These reasoning, learning and creative abilities involve the frontal lobes, which are especially well developed in humans compared to other primates. However, how the frontal function decides to create new strategies and how multiple strategies can be monitored concurrently remain largely unknown.

In a new study, published March 27 in the online, open-access journal , Anne Collins and Etienne Koechlin of Ecole Normale Supérieure and Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, France, examine function using behavioral experiments and computational models of human decision-making. They find that human frontal function concurrently monitors no more than three/four strategies but favors creativity, i.e. the exploration and creation of new strategies whenever no monitored strategies appear to be reliable enough.

The researchers asked one hundred participants to find "3-digit pin codes" by a method of trial and error, under a variety of conditions. They then developed a computational model that predicted the responses produced by participants, which also revealed that participants made their choices by mentally constructing and concurrently monitoring up to three distinct behavioral strategies; flexibly associating digits, motor responses and expected auditory feedbacks.

"This is a remarkable result, because the actual number of correct codes varied across sessions. This suggests that this capacity limit is a hard constraint of human higher cognition," said Dr. Koechlin. Consistently, the performance was significantly better in sessions including no more than three repeated codes.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the pattern of participants' responses derived from a decision system that strongly favors the exploration of new behavioral strategies: "The results provide evidence that the human executive system favors creativity for compensating its limited monitoring capacity" explained Dr. Koechlin. "It favors the exploration of new strategies but restrains the monitoring and storage of uncompetitive ones. Interestingly, this ability to regulate creativity varied across participants and critically explains individual variations in performances. We believe our study may also help to understand the biological foundations of individual differences in decision-making and ".

More information: Collins A, Koechlin E (2012) Reasoning, Learning, and Creativity: Frontal Lobe Function and Human Decision-Making. PLoS Biol 10(3): e1001293.doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001293

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Brain region mediates pleasure of eating

August 22, 2017
Providing the body with food is essential for survival. But even when full, we can still take pleasure in eating. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and the Friedrich Miescher Institute ...

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

August 22, 2017
Hokkaido University researchers revealed that fatal gut failure in a multiple sclerosis (MS) mouse model under chronic stress is caused by a newly discovered nerve pathway. The findings could provide a new therapeutic strategy ...

Contact in sports may lead to differences in the brains of young, healthy athletes

August 22, 2017
People who play contact sports show changes to their brain structure and function, with sports that have greater risk of body contact showing greater effects on the brain, a new study has found.

Research reveals 'exquisite selectivity' of neuronal wiring in the cerebral cortex

August 21, 2017
The brain's astonishing anatomical complexity has been appreciated for over 100 years, when pioneers first trained microscopes on the profusion of branching structures that connect individual neurons. Even in the tiniest ...

Afternoon slump in reward response

August 21, 2017
Activation of a reward-processing brain region peaks in the morning and evening and dips at 2 p.m., finds a study of healthy young men published in The Journal of Neuroscience. This finding may parallel the drop in alertness ...

Researchers find monkey brain structure that decides if viewed objects are new or unidentified

August 18, 2017
A team of researchers working at the University of Tokyo School of Medicine has found what they believe is the part of the monkey brain that decides if something that is being viewed is recognizable. In their paper published ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.