While confronting complex decisions, people tend to take an easy way out to evade misfortunes, missing out on rewards that can induce depression.
The results of a new study suggest that our brains subconsciously rely on a simplistic strategy to filter out options when faced with a complex decision.
AdvertisementHowever, it also highlights how a policy of timidity can lead to poor choices, and could possibly lead to depression, characterised by impaired decision-making, the journal Public Library of Science Computational Biology reports.
Researchers at the University College London (UCL) looked at how people make chains of several decisions, where each step depends on the previous one.
Often, the total number of possible choices is far too large to consider them each individually. One way to simplify the problem is to avoid considering any plan where the first step has a seriously negative association - no matter what the overall outcome would be, according to an UCL statement.
Quentin Huys from the UCL Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, who led the research the explained: "Imagine planning a holiday - you could not possibly consider every destination in the world.
"To reduce the number of options, you might instinctively avoid considering going to any countries that are more than five hours away by plane because you don't enjoy flying," said Huys.
"This strategy simplifies the planning process and guarantees that you won't have to endure an uncomfortable long-haul flight. However, it also means that you might miss out on an amazing trip to an exotic destination."
The study was based on a group of 46 volunteers with no known psychiatric disorders to plan chains of decisions in which they moved around a maze - on each step they either gained or lost money.