Creativity and human reasoning during decision-making

March 27, 2012, Public Library of Science
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

Wiring diagram of the brain provides a clearer picture of brain scan data

December 14, 2018
Already affecting more than five million Americans older than 65, Alzheimer's disease is on the rise and expected to impact more than 13 million people by 2050. Over the last three decades, researchers have relied on neuroimaging—brain ...

Scientists identify method to study resilience to pain

December 14, 2018
Scientists at the Yale School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System have successfully demonstrated that it is possible to pinpoint genes that contribute to inter-individual differences in pain.

Parents' brain activity 'echoes' their infant's brain activity when they play together

December 13, 2018
When infants are playing with objects, their early attempts to pay attention to things are accompanied by bursts of high-frequency activity in their brain. But what happens when parents play together with them? New research, ...

In the developing brain, scientists find roots of neuropsychiatric diseases

December 13, 2018
The most comprehensive genomic analysis of the human brain ever undertaken has revealed new insights into the changes it undergoes through development, how it varies among individuals, and the roots of neuropsychiatric illnesses ...

Researchers find the cause of and cure for brain injury associated with gut condition

December 13, 2018
Using a mouse model of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)—a potentially fatal condition that causes a premature infant's gut to suddenly die—researchers at Johns Hopkins say they have uncovered the molecular causes of the ...

Researchers discover abundant source for neuronal cells

December 13, 2018
USC researchers seeking a way to study genetic activity associated with psychiatric disorders have discovered an abundant source of human cells—the nose.

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.