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We Learn Faster When We Aren’t Told What Choices to Make

Scientific American – “In a perfect world, we would learn from success and failure alike. Both hold instructive lessons and provide needed reality checks that may safeguard our decisions from bad information or biased advice. But, alas, our brain doesn’t work this way. Unlike an impartial outcome-weighing machine an engineer might design, it learns more from some experiences than others. A few of these biases may already sound familiar: A positivity bias causes us to weigh rewards more heavily than punishments. And a confirmation bias makes us take to heart outcomes that confirm what we thought was true to begin with but discount those that show we were wrong. A new study, Information about action outcomes differentially affects learning from self-determined versus imposed choices, however, peels away these biases to find a role for choice at their core. A bias related to the choices we make explains all the others, says Stefano Palminteri of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM), who conducted [the] study published in Nature Human Behaviour in August that examines this tendency. “In a sense we have been perfecting our understanding of this bias,” he says…”

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