Optimising human decision making – the neural mechanisms underlying information gathering training

Tobias Hauser (primary)
Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research
University College London
Nikolaus Steinbeis (secondary)
Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology
University College London


Making good decisions is critical, but humans show strong biases affecting the quality of their decisions. In information gathering – the process of obtaining additional information before making a decision – these suboptimalities are driven by the inadequate arbitration between costs and benefits of gathering information, and have been found particularly pronounced in psychiatric patients. In this project, the student will develop a training to optimise human information gathering and reduce these biases. Using computational modelling and neuroimaging, this project will determine the neurocomputational mechanisms underlying suboptimal information gathering, and demonstrate how these mechanisms can be altered to improve information gathering.


Bowler, A., Habicht, J., Moses-Payne, M.E., Steinbeis, N., Moutoussis, M., Hauser, T.U., 2021. Children perform extensive information gathering when it is not costly. Cognition 208, 104535. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104535
Hauser, T.U., Moutoussis, M., Dayan, P., Dolan, R.J., 2017a. Increased decision thresholds trigger extended information gathering across the compulsivity spectrum. Transl. Psychiatry 7, 1296. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-017-0040-3
Hauser, T.U., Moutoussis, M., Iannaccone, R., Brem, S., Walitza, S., Drechsler, R., Dayan, P., Dolan, R.J., 2017b. Increased decision thresholds enhance information gathering performance in juvenile Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). PLOS Comput. Biol. 13, e1005440. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005440
Hauser, T.U., Moutoussis, M., Purg, N., Dayan, P., Dolan, R.J., 2018. Beta-blocker propranolol modulates decision urgency during sequential information gathering. J. Neurosci. 0192–18. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0192-18.2018
Michely, J., Martin, I.M., Dolan, R.J., Hauser, T.U., in prep. Boosting serotonin increases information gathering by reducing subjective cognitive costs.

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biology
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
Microscopy / ElectrophysiologySimulation / Modelling