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Concept: Decision theory


Interoception is the sensing of physiological signals originating inside the body, such as hunger, pain and heart rate. People with greater sensitivity to interoceptive signals, as measured by, for example, tests of heart beat detection, perform better in laboratory studies of risky decision-making. However, there has been little field work to determine if interoceptive sensitivity contributes to success in real-world, high-stakes risk taking. Here, we report on a study in which we quantified heartbeat detection skills in a group of financial traders working on a London trading floor. We found that traders are better able to perceive their own heartbeats than matched controls from the non-trading population. Moreover, the interoceptive ability of traders predicted their relative profitability, and strikingly, how long they survived in the financial markets. Our results suggest that signals from the body - the gut feelings of financial lore - contribute to success in the markets.

Concepts: Risk, Economics, Decision theory, Sense, Heart rate, Investment, Stock market, Finance


Tens of millions of people are currently choosing health coverage on a state or federal health insurance exchange as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We examine how well people make these choices, how well they think they do, and what can be done to improve these choices. We conducted 6 experiments asking people to choose the most cost-effective policy using websites modeled on current exchanges. Our results suggest there is significant room for improvement. Without interventions, respondents perform at near chance levels and show a significant bias, overweighting out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles. Financial incentives do not improve performance, and decision-makers do not realize that they are performing poorly. However, performance can be improved quite markedly by providing calculation aids, and by choosing a “smart” default. Implementing these psychologically based principles could save purchasers of policies and taxpayers approximately 10 billion dollars every year.

Concepts: Health insurance, Improve, Decision theory, Thought, Performance, Choice, Finance, Choice architecture


Collaboration can provide benefits to the individual and the group across a variety of contexts. Even in simple perceptual tasks, the aggregation of individuals' personal information can enable enhanced group decision-making. However, in certain circumstances such collaboration can worsen performance, or even expose an individual to exploitation in economic tasks, and therefore a balance needs to be struck between a collaborative and a more egocentric disposition. Neurohumoral agents such as oxytocin are known to promote collaborative behaviours in economic tasks, but whether there are opponent agents, and whether these might even affect information aggregation without an economic component, is unknown. Here, we show that an androgen hormone, testosterone, acts as such an agent. Testosterone causally disrupted collaborative decision-making in a perceptual decision task, markedly reducing performance benefit individuals accrued from collaboration while leaving individual decision-making ability unaffected. This effect emerged because testosterone engendered more egocentric choices, manifest in an overweighting of one’s own relative to others' judgements during joint decision-making. Our findings show that the biological control of social behaviour is dynamically regulated not only by modulators promoting, but also by those diminishing a propensity to collaborate.

Concepts: Psychology, Decision making, Decision theory, Androgen, Human behavior, Collaboration


Evidence-based policy ensures that the best interventions are effectively implemented. Integrating rigorous, relevant science into policy is therefore essential. Barriers include the evidence not being there; lack of demand by policymakers; academics not producing rigorous, relevant papers within the timeframe of the policy cycle. This piece addresses the last problem. Academics underestimate the speed of the policy process, and publish excellent papers after a policy decision rather than good ones before it. To be useful in policy, papers must be at least as rigorous about reporting their methods as for other academic uses. Papers which are as simple as possible (but no simpler) are most likely to be taken up in policy. Most policy questions have many scientific questions, from different disciplines, within them. The accurate synthesis of existing information is the most important single offering by academics to the policy process. Since policymakers are making economic decisions, economic analysis is central, as are the qualitative social sciences. Models should, wherever possible, allow policymakers to vary assumptions. Objective, rigorous, original studies from multiple disciplines relevant to a policy question need to be synthesized before being incorporated into policy.

Concepts: Economics, Science, Decision theory, Policy, Implementation, Social sciences, Political science, Scholarly method


We aimed to derive and validate a clinical decision rule (CDR) for suspected cardiac chest pain in the emergency department (ED). Incorporating information available at the time of first presentation, this CDR would effectively risk-stratify patients and immediately identify: (A) patients for whom hospitalisation may be safely avoided; and (B) high-risk patients, facilitating judicious use of resources.

Concepts: Myocardial infarction, Hospital, Heart, Validation, Avicenna, Decision theory, Acute coronary syndrome, Chest pain


Atrial fibrillation is a common arrhythmia in heart failure and a risk factor for stroke. Risk assessment tools can assist clinicians with decision making in the allocation of thromboprophylaxis. This review provides an overview of current validated risk assessment tools for atrial fibrillation and emphasizes the importance of tailoring individual risk and the importance of weighing the benefits of treatment. Further, this review provides details of innovative and patient-centered methods for ensuring optimal adherence to prescribed therapy. Prior to initiating oral anticoagulant therapy, a comprehensive risk assessment should include evaluation of associated cardiogeriatric conditions, potential for adherence to prescribed therapy, frailty, and functional and cognitive ability.

Concepts: Decision making, Evaluation, Heart, Risk, Atrial fibrillation, Cognition, Decision theory, Anticoagulant


Humans and animals face decision tasks in an uncertain multi-agent environment where an agent’s strategy may change in time due to the co-adaptation of others strategies. The neuronal substrate and the computational algorithms underlying such adaptive decision making, however, is largely unknown. We propose a population coding model of spiking neurons with a policy gradient procedure that successfully acquires optimal strategies for classical game-theoretical tasks. The suggested population reinforcement learning reproduces data from human behavioral experiments for the blackjack and the inspector game. It performs optimally according to a pure (deterministic) and mixed (stochastic) Nash equilibrium, respectively. In contrast, temporal-difference(TD)-learning, covariance-learning, and basic reinforcement learning fail to perform optimally for the stochastic strategy. Spike-based population reinforcement learning, shown to follow the stochastic reward gradient, is therefore a viable candidate to explain automated decision learning of a Nash equilibrium in two-player games.

Concepts: Game theory, Risk, Decision theory, Prisoner's dilemma, Nash equilibrium, Equilibrium, Matching pennies, Trembling hand perfect equilibrium


Rational decision making on malaria control depends on an understanding of the epidemiological risks and control measures. National Malaria Control Programmes across Africa have access to a range of state-of-the-art malaria risk mapping products that might serve their decision-making needs. The use of cartography in planning malaria control has never been methodically reviewed.

Concepts: Decision making, Malaria, Risk, Cognition, Decision theory, Map, Rational choice theory, Flipism


Background Formulation and evaluation of public health policy commonly employs science-based mathematical models. For instance, epidemiological dynamics of TB is dominated, in general, by flow between actively and latently infected populations. Thus modelling is central in planning public health intervention. However, models are highly uncertain because they are based on observations that are geographically and temporally distinct from the population to which they are applied.Aims We aim to demonstrate the advantages of info-gap theory, a non-probabilistic approach to severe uncertainty when worst cases cannot be reliably identified and probability distributions are unreliable or unavailable. Info-gap is applied here to mathematical modelling of epidemics and analysis of public health decision-making.Methods Applying info-gap robustness analysis to tuberculosis/HIV (TB/HIV) epidemics, we illustrate the critical role of incorporating uncertainty in formulating recommendations for interventions. Robustness is assessed as the magnitude of uncertainty that can be tolerated by a given intervention. We illustrate the methodology by exploring interventions that alter the rates of diagnosis, cure, relapse and HIV infection.Results We demonstrate several policy implications. Equivalence among alternative rates of diagnosis and relapse are identified. The impact of initial TB and HIV prevalence on the robustness to uncertainty is quantified. In some configurations, increased aggressiveness of intervention improves the predicted outcome but also reduces the robustness to uncertainty. Similarly, predicted outcomes may be better at larger target times, but may also be more vulnerable to model error.Conclusions The info-gap framework is useful for managing model uncertainty and is attractive when uncertainties on model parameters are extreme. When a public health model underlies guidelines, info-gap decision theory provides valuable insight into the confidence of achieving agreed-upon goals.

Concepts: Public health, Epidemiology, Physics, Decision theory, Uncertainty, Robust statistics, Minimax, Info-gap decision theory


BACKGROUND: The evidence on public health interventions has traditionally focussed on a limited number of costs and benefits, adopted inconsistent methods and is not always relevant to the UK context. This paper develops a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) approach to overcome these challenges. METHODS: A document review and stakeholder consultation was used to identify interventions and the criteria against which they should be assessed. The interventions were measured against these criteria using literature reviews and decision models. Criteria weights were generated using a discrete choice experiment. RESULTS: Fourteen interventions were included in the final ranking. Taxation was ranked as the highest priority. Mass-media campaigns and brief interventions ranked in the top half of interventions. School-based educational interventions, statins and interventions to address mental health problems ranked in the bottom half of interventions. CONCLUSIONS: This paper demonstrates that it is possible to incorporate criteria other than cost-effectiveness in the prioritization of public health investment using an MCDA approach. There are numerous approaches available that adopt the MCDA framework. Further research is required to determine the most appropriate approach in different settings.

Concepts: Health economics, Public health, Decision theory, Decision making software, Cost-utility analysis, Public relations, Multi-criteria decision analysis, New Approach to Appraisal