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Our group uses a combination of behavioural testing, computer modelling and functional neuroimaging to understand how humans make decisions, and to investigate the brain mechanisms that are involved.

Summerfield lab

Our research is concerned with how humans make decisions.  We define decisions as commitments to a course of action (e.g. "I will eat an apple") or commitments to a belief about the world ("that is an apple, and not a pear"). 

We tackle two main questions. Firstly, how can we best characterise the information processing steps that underlie decisions? One way to address this question is to carry out simulations (build a 'computational model') of how an individual might react given a particular choice (e.g. choosing between two visual stimuli).  The predictions of the model can then be compared to the behaviour of human participants who are actually faced with that choice in an experimental situation.  Secondly, how are these computational mechanisms implemented in the human brain?  To address this question, we use functional neuroimaging methods, including electroencephalography (EEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), as well as recording eye movements.  

One key focus of our work is to understand the interplay between learning and decision-making.  Our experience with the world allows us to form expectations about what is likely to occur.  These expectations in turn shape our decisions.  For example, before taking an umbrella on a walk you might look out of the window for rain.  However, if the forecast is changeable, you might decide to carry your umbrella even if it looks sunny outside.  Decisions thus involve information the integration of perceptual information with past experiences or information held in memory.  We seek to understand how this mechanism occurs at the neural and computational levels.

More information can be found on our lab website


Selected publications

Related research themes