Memory and risky choice

Decision-making involves evaluating options by searching for and sampling information from both memory and the environment. Not all information is equal and some items are more likely to be encoded in and retrieved from memory. I am currently working on several projects investigating how our memory for rewarding events, both extreme and rare, contributes to decision-making and risky choices.

In July I will be starting an ESRC New Investigator Grant that looks at how humans perceive and remember uncertain information, and how these memory representations are used in later decision-making.

Memory and evaluation

Decisions are often based on the preferences and judgements we form, which are unstable. Understanding how memory contributes to retrospective evaluations can helps to explain this instability. In this work we have been examining whether there is a a trade-off between memory-based and moment-by-moment strategies in evaluation and which features of memory predict evalution.

We are constantly encoding information; however, relatively little of that information is eventually consolidated and stored in memory. In order to be adaptive, memory must be selective and prioritise information that is relevant to future decisions. There are many ways in which reward can affect the consolidation of newly learned material. For example, students studying for exams may be actively focusing their attention and resources to promote certain items in memory (motivated learning). In other situations the value of the information is more incidental; for example, a child might enjoy interacting with a new object and therefore be more likely to remember its name (incidental learning).

Obesity and impulsitivity

During my post at the Nutrition and Behaviour Unit at the University of Bristol I worked on several projects examining the role of satiety reward in food choice. You can read a bit more about this work by clicking here.