Ignorance and the brain

Are there distinct kinds of unknowns?

Authored by: Michael Smithson , Helen Pushkarskaya

Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415718967
eBook ISBN: 9781315867762
Adobe ISBN: 9781317964674


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The brain is a human organ responsible for processing external and internal information and deciding how to respond to new information. One of many fascinating capabilities of the brain is an ability to make decisions even when not all objectively necessary information is available (this arguably distinguishes the brain from the computer). There is a fast-growing brain-imaging research literature on how the brain deals with unknowns (i.e., uncertainty). One branch of this literature focuses primarily on low-level processing (e.g., visual perception) and another mainly on high-level processing (e.g., executive functions). This chapter will present a brief review of selected findings from both literatures.

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