The evolution of decision-making strategies

Why have humans evolved irrational decision-making biases, even when they are skilled at weighing costs and benefits accurately in a variety of other contexts? For example, people devalue options as they are pushed into the future, and generally avoid risk. Although many components of human economic behavior are typical of our species (i.e., only humans use money as a medium of exchange), other primates face similar choices in their natural habitats, making tradeoffs between the energetic or temporal costs and the possible benefits. I compare human and non-human primates’ decision-making strategies in similar contexts to shed light upon which aspects of economic decision-making are unique to humans, versus more widely shared. This research is done in collaboration with the Unit of Cognitive Primatology in Rome and the Department of Psychology of the Sapienza University of Rome.