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Limiting choices may lead to depression

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The process we go through to make a difficult decision necessarily leaves us with fewer options and may be associated with depression .

To make a difficult decision, the brain subconsciously uses a filtering method. This method could eliminate long term gains in favor of avoiding short term losses and the result is some degree of depression.

“Imagine planning a holiday,” said Dr., Quentin Huys, from the UCL Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit and lead author. “You could not possibly consider every destination in the world. To reduce the number of options, you might instinctively avoid considering going to any countries that are more than 5 hours away by plane because you don’t enjoy flying. This strategy simplifies the planning process and guarantees that you won’t have to endure an uncomfortable long-haul flight. However, it also means that you might miss out on an amazing trip to an exotic destination.”

Researchers asked a group of people with no known psychiatric disorders to make a chain of decisions. They moved around a maze and were rewarded or penalized for those decisions. People consciously chose to avoid penalties even when subsequent possible moves brought great reward. Participants reported on levels of depression after playing. Researchers found that the amount of pruning the participants demonstrated while playing the game was associated with the amount of depression they reported afterward.

“The reflex to prune the number of possible options is a double –edged sword. Although necessary to simplify complicated decisions, it could also lead to poor choices,” explained Neir Eshel, co-author of the study.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, PLoS Computational Biology

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