Seeing future

Geleceği Görmek

One of the important and valuable features of our brain is that it can help us engage in predictive behavior.

Regardless of whether it is ourselves or someone else, learning lessons from the past undoubtedly helps people direct their future correctly. When Kierkegaard says “Life can only be understood retrospectively; but it should be lived in a forward-looking manner”, he must mean this in a sense.

To understand how a sense of control over others may influence the brain’s decision-making processes, a study conducted at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine, tested the ability of healthy human subjects to play a type of bargaining game. In this study, first of all, it is seen that people use “forward thinking” when trying to influence others. Forward thinking occurred regardless of whether subjects were actually influencing others and appeared to be driven by neural activity in the brain’s well-known decision-making center.

Xiaosi Gu, director of the study said, “People are social beings. And in our view, many psychiatric disorders are the result of problems with how the brain’s software is programmed to handle social situations. In this work, we tried to understand the rules that govern how this software is programmed. “Our results show that in certain social situations the brain utilizes the type of forward thinking often used when playing chess.” It includes the following statements.

In the study, the researchers focused on whether forward thinking is used, especially when we are trying to influence others or exercise “social control.” Previous studies also show that social control can have profound effects on well-being and mental health. Although a few studies show that forward thinking is used in nonsocial situations, rare studies highlight its role in how we interact with others.

To test this idea, researchers first placed 48 healthy volunteers in a brain scanner and asked them to play two different versions of the “ultimatum game,” a well-known bargaining exercise in which they are asked to split $20 with an opponent. In the “controllable” version of the first game, the rules were predictable. Initial bids always started at $5. If $5 was accepted, the next bid would be a dollar or two lower; if rejected, subsequent bids would increase by the same amounts as the initial amount. In the second “uncontrollable” version, the participant’s initial decision would have no effect on subsequent bids. Instead, the bids would be randomly selected and therefore unpredictable. Each participant played 40 rounds, alternating between two different versions.

The results showed that participants’ responses to the games varied; the advantages of the predictable version are perceived and used by the participants. Most importantly, in the predictable game, participants not only received higher offers but also acted more controlled and made slower decisions. In summary, people are both more cautious in predictable situations and can make more accurate decisions as a result of slowing down in taking action.

The results of brain imaging shows that  the ventromedial brain, a decision-making center known to be involved in forward thinking is driven by neural activity in the prefrontal cortex.

– Na, S., Chung, D., Hula, A., Perl, O., Jung, J., Heflin, M., … & Gu, X. (2021). humans use forward thinking to exploitation social controllability. eLife, 10.