Decisions & Learning

Desire drives decisions, which are made using one of two possible strategies: reward association or model-based learning.

Decisions are most simply made via reinforcement from what worked before – an impulsive strategy. The other way involves assessing the current situation. Decision-making based upon a mental model – goal orientation – is more probabilistic. The distinction between the strategies is what worked recently versus what has been learned as working most often.

Most people go with their gut rather than cognize. “People exhibit little model-based behavior unless it leads to higher rewards,” report economists Arkady Konovalov and Ian Krajbich.

The core distinction is that ‘intuitive’ decision-making is letting the mind have its way versus using the mind as a tool to estimate outcome probabilities. Most people are lazy-minded when it comes to making decisions.


Ishi Nobu, The Echoes of the Mind, BookBaby (2019).

Arkady Konovalov & Ian Krajbich, “Mouse tracking reveals structure knowledge in the absence of model-based choice,” Nature Communications (20 April 2020).

Jeff Grabmeier, “People may know the best decision – and not make it,” Medical Xpress (20 April 2020).