Latest in Science

Image credit: Alfred Pasieka/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

Your brain always has a backup plan

A discovery about decision making could lead to smarter robots.
1532 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Sponsored Links

Alfred Pasieka/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

You may not always be consciously considering a Plan B when you're making a decision, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Queen's University researchers have discovered that the human brain's motor neurons will prepare for multiple actions before making a decision. The team learned this by conducting experiments where volunteers were asked to guide a cursor toward one of two targets before they knew which one they were supposed to pick. While it was easy for the test subjects to consciously steer down the middle, the scientists took the cursor increasingly out of sync to make people compensate through unconscious actions. Sure enough, the volunteers' movements were an average of the movement paths needed to reach the targets, not the average between the positions -- their brains were already prepping for both paths.

The findings should help understand the human mind, of course. They suggest that the brain interprets the environment as a range of potential actions, and that you're always considering options even if you only ever settle on one. However, this could also help produce smarter robots. If you could teach artificial intelligence to always have multiple solutions in mind, they could have a more human-like ability to improvise.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
1532 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Popular on Engadget

Engadget's Guide to Privacy

Engadget's Guide to Privacy

View
YouTube CEO apologizes for channel verification mess (updated)

YouTube CEO apologizes for channel verification mess (updated)

View
Apple’s new iPhones can better manage your battery as it ages

Apple’s new iPhones can better manage your battery as it ages

View
Porsche welcomes challenge from Tesla as it adapts to the EV world

Porsche welcomes challenge from Tesla as it adapts to the EV world

View
Fujifilm's X-Pro3 mimics film cameras with a fold-out display

Fujifilm's X-Pro3 mimics film cameras with a fold-out display

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr