We make predictably bad decisions. We eat that extra slice of cake, buy the expensive phone, and fail to save our planet. It is a dream of psychiatry, and society at large, to understand how our motivations sway our actions in often seemingly irrational ways. A key observation is that behaviour is not only shaped by ‘rational’ learning from experience, but also by 'hardwired' motivational biases: Reward invigorates, while punishment elicits inhibition. These biases are thought to provide sensible default actions (‘priors’) based on accumulated experience, especially helpful when you have to be fast or the environment is unfamiliar. Motivational biases have been proposed to explain why humans are tempted by cues signalling the chance to gain food, drugs, or money, as they automatically activate behaviour. Conversely, punishment-induced suppression may lie at the core of mental health problems such as anxiety and mood disorders, and perhaps more generally societal inactivity in the face of global threats such as climate change. In this talk, I will present a number of recent studies in which we investigate the computational and neurochemicalbasis of such motivational response biases, using a combination of psychopharmacological manipulation of the dopamine system, patient research, computational modelling and neuroimaging (EEG-fMRI).
For more information on the Colloquium and to register for this event, please visit the Institute for the Study of Decision Making website.