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Resarchers Reveal How Some People are More Confident About What They Want

Update Date: Dec 10, 2012 06:33 AM EST

A study by researchers from Wellcome Trust reveals how the brain assesses confidence in its decisions. Through the findings, the researchers explain why some of us are more insightful and confident about the choices we make in life, while some of us are not.

Every day we need to make various decisions to get through life and we are constantly accumulating and analyzing information in the process of doing so. However, how confident we are while making these choices certainly has its consequences.

The study gives an example of investment bankers who need to be confident of their choice while investing their client's money.

The study, led by professor Ray Dolan, reveals the specific locations of the brain which interact to calculate the value of the choices we have in front of us and also determine the confidence we have while making those choices.

For the study, the researchers used functional MRI to measure the brain activity of 20 hungry volunteers while they made choices between food items that they would eat later.

The participants were asked as to how much they would spend for each snack.  Later, once the participants had made their choices, they were asked how confident they felt that they had made the right choice and selected the best snack.

Previously, it has been shown that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex of the brain plays a significant role in computing the value of decision options.

The findings of the current research reveal that the level of activity in this area also determines the level of confidence in people about the choices they make. Also, the study shows that the interaction between this area of the brain and an adjacent area determines an individual's ability to access and report their level of confidence, Medical Xpress reported.

"We found that people's confidence varied from decision to decision. While we knew where to look for signals of value computation, it was very interesting to also observe neural signals of confidence in the same brain region," explained Dr. Steve Fleming, a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow now based at New York University.

"Overall, we think our results provide an initial account both of how people make choices, and also their insight into the decision process," Dr. Benedetto De Martino, a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow at UCL, added.

The findings are published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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