Deciding How To Decide: Self-Control and Meta-Decision Making

Trends Cogn Sci. 2015 Nov;19(11):700-710. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2015.08.013. Epub 2015 Oct 5.

Abstract

Many different situations related to self control involve competition between two routes to decisions: default and frugal versus more resource-intensive. Examples include habits versus deliberative decisions, fatigue versus cognitive effort, and Pavlovian versus instrumental decision making. We propose that these situations are linked by a strikingly similar core dilemma, pitting the opportunity costs of monopolizing shared resources such as executive functions for some time, against the possibility of obtaining a better outcome. We offer a unifying normative perspective on this underlying rational meta-optimization, review how this may tie together recent advances in many separate areas, and connect several independent models. Finally, we suggest that the crucial mechanisms and meta-decision variables may be shared across domains.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Self-Control*