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Differences in Behavior and Brain Activity during Hypothetical and Real Choices

Camerer, Colin and Mobbs, Dean (2017) Differences in Behavior and Brain Activity during Hypothetical and Real Choices. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 21 (1). pp. 46-56. ISSN 1364-6613. PMCID PMC7769501. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2016.11.001.

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Real behaviors are binding consequential commitments to a course of action, such as harming another person, buying an Apple watch, or fleeing from danger. Cognitive scientists are generally interested in the psychological and neural processes that cause such real behavior. However, for practical reasons, many scientific studies measure behavior using only hypothetical or imagined stimuli. Generalizing from such studies to real behavior implicitly assumes that the processes underlying the two types of behavior are similar. We review evidence of similarity and differences in hypothetical and real mental processes. In many cases, hypothetical choice tasks give an incomplete picture of brain circuitry that is active during real choice.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Camerer, Colin0000-0003-4049-1871
Mobbs, Dean0000-0003-1175-3772
Additional Information:© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. Available online 12 December 2016. Support was received from NSF and BNDF (C.C.) and NARSAD (D.M.). We thank Jody Culham and Rebecca Saxe for comments.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Brain and Behavior Research FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:affective realism; choice; decision making; decision neuroscience; hypothetical bias; valuation
Issue or Number:1
PubMed Central ID:PMC7769501
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20161219-084752514
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Colin Camerer, Dean Mobbs, Differences in Behavior and Brain Activity during Hypothetical and Real Choices, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 21, Issue 1, January 2017, Pages 46-56, ISSN 1364-6613,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:72924
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 Dec 2016 17:30
Last Modified:06 Apr 2022 19:47

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