A little simmering improves decision-making


A study has found that brain regions responsible for making decisions continue to be active even when the conscious brain is distracted with a different task.

The study, in which 27 adults were given information about cars and other consumer products then asked to perform a brief but challenging working memory task (involving numbers) before making their decision about the items, found that:

  • As shown previously, the brief period of distraction (two minutes) produced higher quality decisions.
  • Regions activated during the learning phase (right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and left intermediate visual cortex) continued to be active during the distractor task.
  • The amount of activation within the visual and prefrontal cortices during the distractor task predicted the degree to which participants made better decisions (activity occurring during the working memory task, as shown by a separate performance of that task, was subtracted from overall activity).


[3394] Creswell, D. J., Bursley J. K., & Satpute A. B.
(2013).  Neural Reactivation Links Unconscious Thought to Decision Making Performance.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.