Decisions, Decisions

From the moment we wake up in the morning we are confronted with decisions large and small: what to eat, what to say in meetings, what to buy. Although many of us would like to believe those decisions are driven by a careful review of the facts, the reality is that everything from our age and our emotions to the way we express our opinions alters the decisions we make.

The science of how the brain sorts through those factors and eventually makes a decision – Pop-Tarts or oatmeal, donate to a cause or not – falls at the intersection of research taking place across Stanford schools and institutes, where neuroscience meets environmentalism and where psychology meets business.

  • Age

    The brain changes at different stages of life, and the way we weigh the pros and cons of our decisions changes with it

  • Expression

    The way we express an opinion – verbally, manually or on different devices - can change the very nature of the decision

  • Mental Health

    Mental disorders like anorexia or depression directly alter the way the brain makes decisions

  • Emotion

    Our emotions can override the brain’s calculations, leading to otherwise irrational decisions like charitable donations

  • Group dynamics

    Groups of people make better or worse decisions depending on the composition of the group and experience of the leader

  • Evolution

    Our brains evolved to value near-term rewards over long-term threats, and that wiring creates challenges for treating addiction

Worldview Stanford, which creates interdisciplinary learning experiences for professionals, has more video and audio resources addressing the question: How do we decide?