A Benefit of Thinking Slow


“Turing showed that by accumulating multiple samples of information over time, the code-breakers could increase their confidence in a particular setting being correct.

Remarkably, the brain appears to use a similar scheme of evidence accumulation to deal with difficult decisions. . . .

Putting these findings together, we learn that there is a benefit from being slow. When faced with a novel scenario, one that hasn’t been encountered before, Turing’s equations tell us that slower decisions are more accurate and less susceptible to noise. In psychology, this is known as the ‘speed-accuracy trade-off’ and is one of the most robust findings in the past 100 years or so of decision research. Recent research has begun to uncover a specific neural basis for setting this trade-off. Connections between the cortex and a region of the brain known as the subthalamic nucleus control the extent to which an individual will slow down his or her decisions when faced with a difficult choice. The implication is that this circuit acts like a temporary brake, extending decision time to allow more evidence to accumulate, and better decisions to be made.”

–Steve Fleming, “Hesitate!: Quick decision-making might seem bold, but the agony of indecision is your brain’s way of making a better choice” on Aeon

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