Annotated Bibliography: Neurological Processes and Decision Making

Abelson, Robert P, Roger C. Schank, and Ellen J. Langer. Beliefs, Reasoning, and Decision Making: Psycho-logic in Honor of Bob Abelson. Hillsdale, N.J: L. Erlbaum, 1994. Print.

This source incorporates many of the thoughts from other research sources into one. Primarily focusing on the ideas of uncertainty in the decision making process and the way decisions can be influenced through the commitment one has already invested into the decision. This book counters the old notion of a calculated decision as seen in the expected utility principle described in other research sources. As such, this source will be useful in highlighting the opposition amongst the beginning theories of decision making.
My inquiry question revolves around the prevailing theories of decision making and the way researchers are finding evidence to prove or disprove one another. By finding as much opposition as I can to these theories I am better able to understand the core processes in the brain that they may be related to.
This limitation is not without fault however, much of the book is not related to my topic and instead focuses on other topics relating to reason in the mind. One good point about this source is that it is around the same time as many of the other sources I plan on using making the opinions and oppositions raised in this source to be much more accurate and easier to ascertain.

Greenfield, Kent. The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011. Print.

Kent Greenfield in this book describes the limitations and common processes of the brain that influence human choice. In Chapter 3, “Our Choices, Our Brains” he describes sections of the brain, like the basal ganglia and the prefrontal cortex and notes what influence they have on decision making. He cites many well known researchers like David Diamond as support for his explanation into the basal ganglia and the role it has in the “autopilot” cognitive mode.
This source is firmly at the beginning of the conversation and acts as an easy entry point for the layman trying to understand how the brain works. As it says in the author’s inner flap Greenfield is concerned with the accessibility of information and by toning down the verbiage compared to the more scholarly sources it is easier to get the point across.
There are a few limitations concerning this source. Although it provides a nice basic framework for getting started and collecting additional resources the book itself is a bit lacking in detail. The focus on morality and emotions that are presented throughout the text somewhat limits the usefulness of this resource toward my topic. Another limitation is due to its simplicity this source also isn’t saying much about conflicting theories or making any strides in coming up with novel conclusions. Overall this is a good starting resource because it exposes the underlying base research that I will delve into later in an easy to digest medium.

Hastie, Reid, and Robyn M. Dawes. Rational Choice in an Uncertain World: The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2010. Print.

This source takes note of many fundamental decision making theories. Many core ideas like the expected utility theory, which describes how people should act, are discussed along with opposing theories like the descriptive theories of decision making which focus on how human actually act. The descriptions presented on all these theories provide a much needed basis of knowledge to understand the more modern theories also presented in this book. A multitude of examples and studies are presented for each theory. For instance, in the discussion of sunk costs , the tendency to continue doing an activity one already invested time or money into, Hastie and Robyn present not only studies and other research confirming their viewpoint but also cite real world examples demonstrating the counterexamples.
This book exists between many theories, presenting more or less both sides to each. No real point is made about the conclusiveness of one theory over the other, instead it is laid out more of an information catalog presenting and describing the many facets of each theory. This book will be crucial in linking the currently debated theories concerning decision making with the neurological processes other sources will provide. Some of that integration is even presented in chapter 13, where the author mentions the neuroscience aspect of new decision making theories. Overall, this is one of the more in depth yet readable books I’ve seen making it invaluable in integrating other sources together.
One major strength of this resource is the real world examples given for every theory. To the uninitiated many of these theories can seem daunting but these examples easily remedy that condition. In addition, every chapter, each around 20 pages, has a full page dedicated to references. These references aren’t just old works either, many are from 2005 and up making this not only an extensive catalog but also an up to date one. As for limitations, this source doesn’t exactly weave into my research as well as the others. That is because it only mildly references the neurological processes within the brain. In general, I want to see how well other sources that do focus on neurological processes integrate with the theories presented within this source.

Janis, Irving L, and Leon Mann. Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of Conflict, Choice, and Commitment. New York: Free Press, 1977. Print.

The main idea of this source is of the five stage cognitive process. The stages include actions like “appraising the challenge”, “surveying alternatives”, “weighing alternatives”, “deliberating about commitment”, and “adhering despite negative feedback.” The general idea was started by a researcher named Janis in her 1968 study on individuals attempting to reach a difficult personal decision. Later on each of the previous steps were backed up by studies from other researchers.
This source is one of the earliest books I plan on using and it shows. Much of the research in this novel is referenced by subsequent literature and much of the information present in this source has been debunked or re-evaluated given new evidence. As a result, this source won’t have much to say in the current “conversation” but I find it helpful to understand where the research was headed so I may better understand its possible future trajectory.
My inquiry topic is about decision making and how the processes of the brain influence decisions. This book has some of the more fundamental base knowledge of the field and even hits directly on the idea of feedback loops in the brain which was one neurological aspect I wished to explore. As previously stated this source is showing its age which means I will have to combine it with more current research in order to get a more accurate picture of the field. On its own the information will simply be outdated and frankly, less useful. The age aspect has the benefit of exposing how the thinking of the time was when this field was just starting allowing me to more easily spot the differences between old research and the more modern research.

Schneider, Sandra L, and James Shanteau. Emerging Perspectives on Judgement and Decision Research. Cambridge: University Press, 2003. Print.

This source presents itself as a guide to new avenues of thought concerning decision research. The main points presented concern instance-based theories and abstraction based theories of memory representations. The chapter goes on to note that based on the retrieval method the brain uses decision making can be affected. The source then goes on the extrapolate future research topics dealing with the integration of the memory representation theories and the retrieval mechanism theories. One of the most notable ideas presented in this book was “Logan’s theory of automaticity” and how decision making transitions from rule-based to automatic processing in the brain.
This source is definitely based in the up and coming theories concerning decision making. It focuses on expanding current research and presents a number of avenues to that effect. This book is perfect for my research inquiry because it utilizes much of the previous research into memory consolidation and then combines it with many theories regarding related processes.
A conflict noted in this source and in Hastie’s “Rational Choice in an Uncertain World” is how decision theorists and cognitive theorists often are at odds when it comes to psychological processes involving decision making. This is due to how decision theorists are task oriented while cognitive theorists are more process oriented, each overlooking how the task influences the process and how the process influences the task.
A strength of this book is how well it incorporates with my existing research yet brings new ideas on how all of it can link together. Another side benefit is how this book is actually from 2003 which means that although the research is still quite recent many of the possible avenues of research it advocates might have already been explored in other works.


One thought on “Annotated Bibliography: Neurological Processes and Decision Making

  1. katelynzander says:

    Nice job at making some connections between you sources and having a clear understanding on how you wanted to use them. I think a strong part of your annotations is you notice the limitations and biases of them. This will be important when making your argument. I believe Rational Choice in an Uncertain World: The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making was a great source to chose since you said it states both sides of theories. Also a vital part of this source is the real world examples you mentioned. The recent real world examples will be crucial to make a strong argument with instances to back them up. To further your research I believe it is going to be important for you to really find some convincing connections between theories. The connections will not only show the importance of the topic but also allow you to see the viewpoints among diverse scholarship.

    We talked this week in class about your chapter nine research “making choices” and I think you could implement some of your case study findings into your paper. The studies you talked about may have seemed obvious once you research them, but I think they are important when describing real world instances to decision-making. This is an interesting and deep topic. I am interested to see where you will take it. I would be careful to remain on topic because I feel, like most of our topics, it will be easy to veer off. Keep asking your over arching question and make sure your research is always speaking to it.


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