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A Decision Architecture for Safety Computations

Tashjian, Sarah M. and Zbozinek, Tomislav D. and Mobbs, Dean (2021) A Decision Architecture for Safety Computations. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 25 (5). pp. 342-354. ISSN 1364-6613. PMCID PMC8035229. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2021.01.013.

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Accurately estimating safety is critical to pursuing nondefensive survival behaviors. However, little attention has been paid to how the human brain computes safety. We conceptualize a model that consists of two components: (i) threat-oriented evaluations that focus on threat value, imminence, and predictability; and (ii) self-oriented evaluations that focus on the agent’s experience, strategies, and ability to control the situation. Our model points to the dynamic interaction between these two components as a mechanism of safety estimation. Based on a growing body of human literature, we hypothesize that distinct regions of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) respond to threat and safety to facilitate survival decisions. We suggest safety is not an inverse of danger, but reflects independent computations that mediate defensive circuits and behaviors.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Tashjian, Sarah M.0000-0002-0946-6662
Zbozinek, Tomislav D.0000-0003-0187-671X
Mobbs, Dean0000-0003-1175-3772
Additional Information:© 2021 Elsevier Ltd. Available online 2 March 2021. D.M. and S.M.T. are supported by the US National Institute of Mental Health grant no. 2P50MH094258 and Templeton Foundation grant TWCF0366. T.D.Z. is supported by a National Science Foundation grant no. 1911441. No interests are declared.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
John Templeton FoundationTWCF0366
Subject Keywords:decision making; safety; threat; ventromedial prefrontal cortex
Issue or Number:5
PubMed Central ID:PMC8035229
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210302-151224464
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Sarah M. Tashjian, Tomislav D. Zbozinek, Dean Mobbs, A Decision Architecture for Safety Computations, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 25, Issue 5, 2021, Pages 342-354, ISSN 1364-6613,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:108277
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:03 Mar 2021 19:28
Last Modified:09 May 2022 18:01

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