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Being indecisive or unsure of your decisions are hardly deemed to be positive traits. In fact, many construe these qualities to be shortcomings. Strength or weaknesses—what if we tell you that nerve cells in your brain determine your confidence levels as you make a decision?
You read that right! Researchers claim that individual nerve cells in your brain can reveal your confidence level while making decisions.
The findings from the University of Bonn in Germany, and journal Current Biology, identify nerve cells that are crucial to this process.
For this experiment, the researchers chose 12 men and women.
“We showed them photos of two different snacks, for example, a
chocolate bar and a bag of chips. They were then asked to use a slider to indicate which of these alternatives they would rather eat,” said Prof. Dr. Florian Mormann from the Department of Epileptology.
The more they moved the slider from its centre position towards the left or right photo, the more confident they were in their decision.
Participants had to judge a total of 190 different snack pairs in this way. At the same time, the scientists recorded the activity of 830 nerve cells each in the so-called temporal lobe.
“We discovered that the frequency of the electrical pulses in some neurons, in other words, their ‘firing rate’, changed with increasing decision confidence,” said Mormann’s colleague Alexander Unruh-Pinheiro.
“For instance, some fired more frequently, the more confident the respective test person was in their decision,” added Pinheiro.
It is the first time that such a correlation between activity and decision confidence has been identified. The affected neurons are located in a brain region that plays a role in memory processes.
“It is possible that we not only store what decision we made, but also how confident we were in it. Perhaps such a learning process saves us from future wrong decisions,” said Mormann.
“There is evidence that this subjective value is also reflected in the activity of individual neurons. The fact that we instead came across this connection between fire behaviour and decision confidence surprised even us,” said Mormann.