Valerie Reyna, Cornell University

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 - 12:00pm
101 Peretsman Scully Hall

Valerie F. Reyna
Lois and Melvin Tukman Professor
Director, Human Neuroscience Institute
Director, Cornell University Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility
Co-Director, Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research
Cornell University

"A Fuzzy-Trace Theory of Risky Decision-making: Healthy, Unhealthy, and Downright Criminal"

Recent advances in behavioral and brain research on fuzzy-trace theory are discussed, contrasting decision-making based on meaningful gist versus more precise literal thinking.  The theory accounts for central phenomena in decision theory, such as framing biases and the Allais paradox, as described in a formal model of these processes (Broniatowski & Reyna, 2017).  The theory also makes a surprising prediction about the origins of these biases and paradoxes, namely, they emerge from childhood to adulthood (Kogut & Slovic, 2016):  Children, and adolescent risk takers, are more objective and “rational” than adults (Kwak, Payne, Cohen, & Huettel, 2015).  Consistent with the idea that gist-based biases reflect developmentally sophisticated reasoning, unhealthy risk-taking in adolescence was associated with failure to show irrational biases that characterize healthy adults.  In addition, both behavioral risk-taking and brain activation—including criminal risk-taking—were correlated with failure to show these biases in adulthood (Reyna, Helm, Weldon, Shah, Turpin, & Govindgari, in press).  I explore implications of these results for understanding criminal and non-criminal risk-taking, and for promoting healthy decision-making (Blalock & Reyna, 2016; Helm, Reyna, Franz, & Novick, 2017).

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