MCR Talks: Neuroscience of Decision Making with Gabija

Dr. Gabija Toleikyte

Last time I went to a Funzing event I wasn’t that impressed (talk was good but the setup was a bit crappy) but I thought I’d give it another try as the Neuroscience of decision making is too good a talk to miss. I find the Funzing weird as its promoted through Facebook and after clicking the link you are led to the funzing site which isn’t as smooth as Eventbrite. Especially since you finally get your ticket only a hour or so before the actual event via email or text (which leads you to a funzing microsite)

The talk was in Texture (the cool nightclub venue in the northern quarter). The place was full of chairs and most was already sat on. Interestingly I would say its about a 65% female audience. Grabbing a odd chair with a drink after not spotting anyone I recognise (this is a good thing, getting out of your comfort zone).

Just before Dr. Gabija Toleikyte suggested, a early warm up exercise encouraging us to talk to the people around us and ask what brought them to the event. The woman behind me, was generally interested but not so interested in chatting. I turn to the woman in front of me and we talked for a while about her thoughts on the illusion of reality. I threw in my thoughts on memetics and we chatted for a while.

We also briefly talked about my brush with death,  and how I have  found a stronger interest in how the brain works and how we use.

When Gabija started with a proper warm-up she asked us to greet people next to us with a gesture of 1, 2 or 3 fingers. 1 being a hand shake, 2 being a bow and 3 being a hug. On giving the gesture, you have to pick the lowest number between the two. Most of mine were hugs and bows.

When Gabija started she ran through a lot of things in a short amount of time but broke it down in a easily digestible way. It was a good talk and based on a number of things I had heard or read but not really connected in this way… Here are the books I read which she mentioned.

Something new for me was the Triune Brain model

  • Lizard brain – lowest level regulates breathing, heartbeat, digestion, etc.
  • Mammal brain – system 1 regulates emotions, memory, habits, etc
  • Human brain – system 2 regulates rational thinking, learning, problem solving, assessing pros and cons

There is different decision making systems in the brain: slow (rational, system 2) and fast (intuitive, emotional, system 1) its about deciding which system is best as rational decisions with system 2 require a lot more energy. While system 1 is prone to the unconscious biases as its using pattern and basic logic. Emotions are important so we don’t get stuck with indecision; and understanding our emotions can help us to make better decisions. However emotions are quite different from mood which can distort decision making.

Lots to think about and well worth the money and time, thank you to Gabija and hope to check out her next talk about productivity.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

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