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The Origins of Options

Frontiers in Neuroscience
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00050
  • Neuroscience
  • Hypothesis And Theory
  • Biology


Most research on decision making has focused on how human or animal decision makers choose between two or more options, posed in advance by the researchers. The mechanisms by which options are generated for most decisions, however, are not well understood. Models of sequential search have examined the trade-off between continued exploration and choosing one’s current best option, but still cannot explain the processes by which new options are generated. We argue that understanding the origins of options is a crucial but untapped area for decision making research. We explore a number of factors which influence the generation of options, which fall broadly into two categories: psycho-biological and socio-cultural. The former category includes factors such as perceptual biases and associative memory networks. The latter category relies on the incredible human capacity for culture and social learning, which doubtless shape not only our choices but the options available for choice. Our intention is to start a discussion that brings us closer toward understanding the origins of options.

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