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Three Experimental Studies of Reward and Decision Making


Kang, Min Jeong (2010) Three Experimental Studies of Reward and Decision Making. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/1NPB-7J55.


This thesis investigates reward-driven decision making using a combination of techniques such as functional neuroimaging, behavioral experiments, and pupilometry. Different aspects of reward and decision making were examined in three different studies, including the nature of curiosity, similarities and differences in hypothetical and real decisions, and optimal-timing decisions. In the study of curiosity, my colleagues and I conceptualized information as a rewarding object and curiosity as a form of reward anticipation of the rewarding information. We explored this hypothesis using a combination of functional neuroimaging, pupillometry, behavioral experiments, and memory-retrieval experiments. In the study of hypothetical and real decisions, the neural differences and similarities underlying these types of decisions were explored. We discuss potential implications of the findings on scientific practices and suggest the possibility of a new use of fMRI to improve the prediction of real choices based on hypothetical choice data. In the third study, we explore how people make timing decisions when motivation to delay trades off against the motivation to take an action immediately. We experimentally test current theory and examine how strategic decisions become sophisticated over time. We further hypothesize about psychological processes that could guide decision making under uncertainty and time pressure.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Neuroeconomics; fMRI; curiosity; Learning; value of information; hypothetical bias; timing game
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Social Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Camerer, Colin F.
Thesis Committee:
  • Camerer, Colin F. (chair)
  • Rangel, Antonio
  • Bossaerts, Peter L.
  • Adolphs, Ralph
Defense Date:20 August 2009
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-09082009-143650
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:5280
Deposited By: Min Jeong Kang
Deposited On:21 Dec 2009 18:18
Last Modified:08 Nov 2019 18:06

Thesis Files

PDF (Dissertation_Kang_Final) - Final Version
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