Decisions, decisions, decisions: choosing a biological science of choice

Neuron. 2002 Oct 10;36(2):323-32. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(02)00962-5.


Behavioral ecologists argue that evolution drives animal behavior to efficiently solve the problems animals face in their environmental niches. The ultimate evolutionary causes of decision making, they contend, can be found in economic analyses of organisms and their environments. Neurobiologists interested in how animals make decisions have, in contrast, focused their efforts on understanding the neurobiological hardware that serves as a more proximal cause of that same behavior. Describing the flow of information within the nervous system without regard to these larger goals has been their focus. Recent work in a number of laboratories has begun to suggest that these two approaches are beginning to fuse. It may soon be possible to view the nervous system as a representational process that solves the mathematically defined economic problems animals face by making efficient decisions. These developments in the neurobiological theory of choice, and the new schema they imply, form the subject of this article.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurobiology / methods
  • Neurosciences / methods