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Affect & Decision-Making in Health and Disease

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The ability to use information to adaptively guide behavior is central to intelligence. I will present our recent research characterizing the influence of affect on how humans gather, and use, information to make predictions. First, I will present a framework for understanding how people decide whether to seek information. One key component is whether the information is likely to produce a positive or negative affective response. This influence of valence on information-seeking is captured by brain regions along the dopamine reward pathway. The findings yield predictions about information-seeking behavior in disorders in which the dopamine system malfunctions. We have begun to test these predictions, aiming to use measures of information-seeking to facilitate early detection, monitoring and treatment selection for psychopathology. Second, I will show that learning in response to positive and negative information involves distinct mechanisms. This segregation of function allows for flexibility in how positive and negative information influence beliefs and actions in different environments, for instance as a function of the level of threat.

Tali Sharot is a Professor Cognitive Neuroscientist at University College London where she directs the Affective Brain Lab. Prof. Sharot is a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow. Past fellowships also include the Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship, Fellow of the Forum of European Philosophy and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. Sharot is also the author of two award-winning books; The Optimism Bias and The Influential Mind. Sharot received her Ph.D in psychology and neuroscience from New York University and her B.A in psychology and economics from Tel Aviv University.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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