Time of Day Chosen: Morning
Event: Deciding which outfit to put on for the day
The choice of daily outfit is one that almost everyone faces especially those who have to attend classes or work in the morning. I specifically find it difficult to select the outfit when I do so in the morning due to various reasons. I therefore intend to determine the role played by various parts of the brain in making this essential daily decision. It is assumed that when making the choice of outfit in the morning, the brain sends signals depending on the observed environment and on personal feelings and time available. The weather is also believed to play a crucial role in the behavior of the brain during selection of the day’s outfit. It is thus imperative to answer questions such as which particular parts of the brain are involved in making this decision? And do emotions influence the decisions made regarding the daily outfit?
In conducting the research on decision making regarding the outfit to be used for the day, I first conducted the study from the cytoarchitectonic approach. This particular approach entails determination of the different parts of the brain that are involved in decision making, and the roles each of these parts plays in reference to the study subject. Based on the reports of Amunts et al (2005), the brain contains four major parts which are involved in decision making. These parts include the prefrontal cortex (medial and ventral); the anterior cingulated cortex; the hippocampus and the amygdale. According to various authors such as Boorman et al (2005) and Burton et al (2009), the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus play the greatest roles in decision making. Other studies also focus on providing descriptions for the roles played by these two parts on the argument that they are the most influential in basic decision making processes. The frontal cortex is divided into the medial and the ventral prefrontal cortices abbreviated as mPFC and vPFC respectively. The roles played by these two sections of the brain are similar to some extent, although the degrees of intensity of their role performance are different. The prefrontal cortices are associated with the consideration of the value of rewards associated with taking particular action routes (Amunts et al., 2005).
While the medial prefrontal cortex consolidates memory on time scales, the ventral prefrontal cortex is mainly focused on subjective valuated of anticipated outcome values. The medial prefrontal cortex is thus described by Boorman et al (2013) as being more prevalent in adaptive decision making where the decision to be made can be associated with certain precedence. The roles of these parts of the brain with regards to decision making can thus be clarified using the challenge at hand in this study. In the choice of daily outfit, it is common to rely on memory in order to determine various features of different outfits possessed. For instance, when one intends to put on a set of outfits without previously planning how they are to be organized, the individual will have to recall different matches that had previously been used with one particular outfit, for instance a black trouser. After recalling the different sets of outfits that could be used, the individual can then make an informed decision through the capacity to weight the different outcome values associated with each of the sets of clothes that have been selected. In this regard, the outcome values could be things such as the general elegance associated with the selected outfits, the overall fit of the desired selection and the intentions for the day.
From the works of Burton et al (2009), the hippocampus works in collaboration with the prefrontal cortex in various aspects. As the prefrontal cortex supports the consolidation of memories across time scales, the hippocampus is responsible for enhanced spatial awareness, motivation and working memory. From some literatures such as that done by Burton et al (2009), the brain is considered to be fully functional in humans where responses to environmental stimuli is experienced in the prefrontal cortex and relayed to the hippocampus. Jarcho et al (2012) further asserts that the hippocampus also manipulates certain decision outcomes based on spatial and motivational characteristics. In the choice of outfits in the morning, it is inevitable to be influenced by factors such as environmental conditions as well as the working environment. The decision to choose a particular outfit instead of another when going to spend time in a specific environment is influenced by spatial awareness courtesy of the hippocampus. In addition to this, working memory enables one to recall certain occurrences that resulted from selecting a particular outfit on a past day and subsequently to make decisions that affect the choice of outfits in a way that is considerate of the potential outcome of using the selected outfit for the day. In terms of the motivational impacts of the hippocampus, outfit selection is also driven by personal attitudes and feelings and individuals may opt to use particular themes in their choice of outfit. I believe that when influenced by these factors, it is actually the hippocampus playing its role.
To some extent, the hippocampus also plays an essential role in the emotional aspect of decision making. However, Bartol and Linquist (2015) argue that the Amygdala is more responsible for guiding emotional decision making. According to Bartol and Linquist, emotions may sometimes guide decisions when tagged on the outcome of the decision making process. The selection of an outfit can also be associated with emotional outcomes especially when some outfits have certain sentimental value. There are some that are associated with bad luck, sorrow or joy. Decision making in regards to outfit selection thus has the impacts of the amygdala in the process whereby emotions guide the decisions. While the other parts of the brain guide decision making towards a positive direction in most cases, the last part of the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex is responsible of raising awareness of the need to be cautious. This section, from the perspective developed by Amunts et al (2005), is responsible for guiding choices on the basis of past decisions and for creating information on areas where errors are most likely to be experienced. In the selection of an outfit, the anterior cingulate cortex plays a crucial role especially when an outfit that is selected has an error that can cause misrepresentations if worm. Such potentially erroneous zones include when an outfit is creased or destroyed in a certain way. In each of these cases, the anterior cingulated cortex initiates decisions to either rectify the error prior to making the decision to use that outfit or opting for an alternative outfit.
Somatic or Behavioral Intervention: To enhance the understanding of this particular study, I also focused on the use of a somatic approach to explain this research study. The somatic approach as used by Burton et al details the modification of certain variables and studying the behavioral outcomes. According to Popowitz (2014), researchers involved in somatic approaches to study ground their practices on the beliefs that there are certain brain tags associated with various decisions. The decisions come as emotional responses to prompts. In this case, the variable aspects are considered to be the independent variables while the outcomes under study are the dependent variables. In the choice of an outfit in the morning, such experiences can be met where two outfits can serve the same purpose yet the lighting of the house influences the outcome of the decision making process. For instance, a researcher intending to study the impacts of variable house lighting on the selected outfit color may provide options for outfits then vary the lighting in the room. In this regard the room lighting will be the independent variable while the choice of outfit would be the dependent variable. The study participant may choose brightly colored clothes when the room is dark and darker clothes in well lit rooms. This is also associated with considering the point of use of an outfit i.e. where one intends to spend the day.
The somatic approach to intervention can be linked to the work done by Boorman et al (2013) in which participants are asked to make decisions based on their reward expectations. In this regards, the decision or choice made is the dependent variable linked to the reward expectations which are ephemerally independent variables.
Ontogenetic Perspective: The ontogenetic perspective to research is discussed by Bechara (2004). Bechara describes this approach as that which involves changes in brain functioning with age. Such changes are reported to influence the decision making progress. From the work reported by Bechara, one of the major characteristics of the ontogenetic process is that it comes with improvements in the skills of decision making. Ontogenetic principles assert that decision making entails various processes which include impulse control, planning, conceptualization and consultation of the working memory. As one grows older, wisdom increases and comes with changes in preferences. For instance, the selection of the morning outfit is one of the areas in which ontogenetic approaches may be found necessary. As people grow older, their selection of ward robe changes significantly through the years. It is therefore expected that older individuals would be more conservative in their dressing as others.
As cognitive development is enhanced during growth of an individual, the volume of the human brain continues to expand, with significant growth levels being observed in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus sections. Since these areas are the most frequently applied during decision making, it is inevitable that increased number of neurons in such areas results in increment of the decision making capacity. For instance, Bechara et al report that increased development of the prefrontal cortex involves myelination which speeds up signal transmission. Consequently it is expected that increased development not only results in better decision making due to increased number of neurons but also in faster decision making processes.
In carrying out the study, reference was made to certain methods that have previously been used by others in studies of the same nature. The present study was not conducted based on an experimental method but relied on reviewing certain pieces of literature that provide results that can help in providing guidance to the study. In this section, I will describe two particular studies that I relied on immensely as evidence of my findings. The first study was conducted by Burton et al (2009). In this study, the objective of the authors was to determine the impacts of anticipation activities in the medial prefrontal cortex on the prevalence of similar activities in the hippocampus regions of the brain. The tests conducted were carried out on laboratory rats using lesion studies. During the study, the researchers based their objective on the arguments that have been developed by many authors that anticipation during decision making occurs in the prefrontal cortex and the same affects the anticipation in the hippocampus. Because of this, the researchers trained laboratory rats to navigate their positions to a zone identified as the goal zone. Food pellets would then be released for the rats while they are in the goal zone. Repetitive behaviors enabled the rats to develop anticipatory reactions in their prefrontal cortices while in waiting for the food pellets to be released. Through MRI, the same anticipatory reactions could be observed in the hippocampus sections.
During the study, the researchers endeavored to have two groups of rats in order to have a control group for the study. The key study group comprised of rats with brain lesions in the hippocampus while the control group comprised of rats with normal brain functioning. The researchers found out that the rats with lesions indicated lower levels of anticipatory reactions and limited connection between the prefrontal cortex anticipation and the hippocampus anticipation. As such, the authors concluded that anticipatory activities, as one of the antecedents of decision making occurs effectively where there is completely normal brain functioning. This finding shows that the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus both have strong responsibilities in decision making especially where there is need to make decisions in adaptive conditions. As previously highlighted by Boorman et al (2015), the prefrontal cortices have emphasized functions in adaptive decision making. It is therefore expected that lesions in the prefrontal cortex would result in even greater reduction of anticipatory activities.
Another study that provided a strong basis for the present study was conducted by Boorman et al (2013). In this study, the objective of the authors was to determine to what extent long term reward expectations influenced decision making when individuals were presented with three choices. This objective is grounded on the previous findings by other researchers on somatic interventions which indicated that the outcome values influenced decision making in various ways. In this study, the researchers used a total of 22 volunteers as participants for modern imaging techniques of study. The volunteers were involved in Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies of the brain, during which three of the participants failed to comply with the study requirements and had to be taken out. This gave a total of 19 results that were used in drawing the conclusions for the study. The participants in the study were made to make repetitive decisions about certain stimuli based on their reward expectations. In this case, the stimuli about which the decisions had to be made can be taken as the dependent variable as the choice made depended on the expected outcome of the selected choice. On the other hand, the expected outcomes in this regard, was taken to be the independent variable as the outcome rewards were changed by the researchers and the participants asked to make the decisions. From this, the decisions made by the participants depended directly on the perceived reward associated with the decisions. While conducting the study, the true reward probabilities were drawn by the researchers independently and each of the participants went through MRI as they made their decisions. The objectives of the MRI were to determine the parts of the brain that indicated greatest activity during each of the durations of decision making and to determine the particular impacts that those sections had on the decisions made.
During this study, the researchers found out that the decisions made by the participants were influenced by the perceived benefits associated with the choices they had. The study thus argued that the medial pre-frontal cortex is a framer of the current participant choice. This goes in line with other findings made by authors such as Jarcho et al (2012) which show that the prefrontal cortex works in collaboration with the hippocampus in decision making to realize choices influenced by spatial and past considerations. In addition to this, the finding is also supported by previous results which link the amygdale to emotional decision making and those that give reverence to somatic interventions for decision making based on the perceived rewards for a particular decision.
While conducting my studies, I made interesting yet crucial discoveries about psychological operations of the brain. The most crucial concept that I found out was that decision making, even in seemingly simple events is characterized by immense activity in the brain even though it does not appear so. For instance, activities such as consideration of past experiences, evaluation of the expected outcome values and the determination of possible areas of error all take place in the brain during decision making. As such, I believe that relying on one’s conscience during decision making can be an important way to make right decisions unless one is suffering from certain degrees of brain damage. The prefrontal cortex also proves to be the most active part of the brain during decision making as it is the part that is involved in recalling the past, providing motivation and consolidation of time scales among other activities. The importance of this part is thus undeniable.
Apart from this, I also learnt that perceptions can influence decisions in ways one cannot understand. Besides the outcome expectations, emotions and past experiences can also influence decision making. I now understand why there are times when I do not feel like putting on particular outfits for the day simply because I associate them with past pain or sorrow. While I initially thought that it was simply a matter of personal sentiments, I now realize that the brain has a lot to do with recalling past reactions and even though I may forget the specific events that led to the connection of certain outfits wit sorrow or joy, the brain can recall every detail when prompted to do so. I also understand that my decision making may be lower presently because of limited demands as well as due to the continuing brain advancement. However, as I grow older, I will become much wiser and capable of making decisions faster yet it has nothing to do with experience but rather with greater brain development.
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