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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 11;6(3):e14756. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014756.

Are risky choices actually guided by a compensatory process? New insights from FMRI.

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Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.


The dominant theories about risky decision-making assume that decision conflicts are solved by a compensatory process involving a trade-off of probability against payoff, but it is unclear whether these theories actually represent the events that occur when people make a risky decision. By contrasting a preferential choice with a judgment-based choice that required a compensatory process, we explored the mechanisms underlying risky decision-making. First, using parametric analyses, we identified the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dMPFC) as the specific region in charge of task-related conflict in risky decision-making tasks. We also showed that the dMPFC was activated less when judgment-based choices were being made, implying that the conflict experienced during a judgment-based choice was not as strong as the conflict that was experienced during the preferential choice. Our results provide neural evidence that preferential choice cannot be characterized solely as a compensatory process. Thus, questions were raised about whether existing compensatory theories could adequately describe individual risky decisions.

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