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Using Our Brains to Develop Better Policy


  • Igor Linkov, U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center, 696 Virginia Rd., Concord, MA 02446, USA; tel: (617) 233–9869;


Current governmental practices often use a method called weight of evidence (WoE) to integrate and weigh different sources of information in the process of reaching a decision. Recent advances in cognitive neuroscience have identified WoE-like processes in the brain, and we believe that these advances have the potential to improve current decision-making practices. In this article, we describe five specific areas where knowledge emerging from cognitive neuroscience may be applied to the challenges confronting decisionmakers who manage risks: (1) quantifying evidence, (2) comparing the value of different sources of evidence, (3) reaching a decision, (4) illuminating the role of subjectivity, and (5) adapting to new information. We believe that the brain is an appropriate model for structuring decision-making processes because the brain's network is designed for complex, flexible decision making, and because policy decisions that must ultimately depend on human judgment will be best served by methods that complement human abilities. Future discoveries in cognitive neuroscience will likely bring further applications to decision practice.