Jeffrey R. Stevens

Jeffrey R. Stevens is Assistant Professor of Psychology and a faculty member of the Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

  • Evolution and the Mechanisms of Decision Making

    Evolution and the Mechanisms of Decision Making

    Peter Hammerstein and Jeffrey R. Stevens

    A multidisciplinary examination of cognitive mechanisms, shaped over evolutionary time through natural selection, that govern decision making.

    How do we make decisions? Conventional decision theory tells us only which behavioral choices we ought to make if we follow certain axioms. In real life, however, our choices are governed by cognitive mechanisms shaped over evolutionary time through the process of natural selection. Evolution has created strong biases in how and when we process information, and it is these evolved cognitive building blocks—from signal detection and memory to individual and social learning—that provide the foundation for our choices. An evolutionary perspective thus sheds necessary light on the nature of how we and other animals make decisions.

    This volume—with contributors from a broad range of disciplines, including evolutionary biology, psychology, economics, anthropology, neuroscience, and computer science—offers a multidisciplinary examination of what evolution can tell us about our and other animals' mechanisms of decision making. Human children, for example, differ from chimpanzees in their tendency to over-imitate others and copy obviously useless actions; this divergence from our primate relatives sets up imitation as one of the important mechanisms underlying human decision making. The volume also considers why and when decision mechanisms are robust, why they vary across individuals and situations, and how social life affects our decisions.

    • Hardcover $60.00 £50.00

Contributor

  • Better Than Conscious?

    Better Than Conscious?

    DECISION MAKING, the HUMAN MIND, and IMPLICATIONS FOR INSTITUTIONS

    Christoph Engel and Wolf Singer

    Experts discuss the implications of the ways humans reach decisions through the conscious and subconscious processing of information.

    Conscious control enables human decision makers to override routines, to exercise willpower, to find innovative solutions, to learn by instruction, to decide collectively, and to justify their choices. These and many more advantages, however, come at a price: the ability to process information consciously is severely limited and conscious decision makers are liable to hundreds of biases. Measured against the norms of rational choice theory, conscious decision makers perform poorly. But if people forego conscious control, in appropriate tasks, they perform surprisingly better: they handle vast amounts of information; they update prior information; they find appropriate solutions to ill-defined problems.

    This inaugural Strüngmann Forum Report explores the human ability to make decisions, consciously as well as without conscious control. It explores decision-making strategies, including deliberate and intuitive; explicit and implicit; processing information serially and in parallel, with a general-purpose apparatus, or with task-specific neural subsystems. The analysis is at four levels—neural, psychological, evolutionary, and institutional—and the discussion is extended to the definition of social problems and the design of better institutional interventions. The results presented differ greatly from what could be expected under standard rational choice theory and deviate even more from the alternate behavioral view of institutions. New challenges emerge (for example, the issue of free will) and some purported social problems almost disappear if one adopts a more adequate model of human decision making.

    • Hardcover $9.75 £7.99