The Part of the brain that controls decision making

In this article, we will explain the part of the brain that controls emotions and how it develops to make decisions. We will also talk about how the brain develops in different circumstances when making decisions.

Part of the brain that controls decision making.

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls emotions. The frontal lobe controls character, decision-making and reasoning, while memory, speech and sense of smell are controlled by the temporal lobe.

The brain and decision making

The origin of freedom is in the brain and this capacity is nothing more than the possibility of choosing between different actions or forms of language. Human beings have autonomy to do one thing or another and to suppress what is not wanted. In both cases, it is an election that includes the option to do nothing.

The ability to decide is, above all, in the cerebral cortex, an area of ​​the brain that adjusts us to the environment and has a late development in people. In reality, full maturity is not acquired until we are approaching the third decade of life, when the maturation process of the cerebral cortex ends. 

At that age we manage to postpone gratification, something that a child who wants everything in the here and now cannot do. For this reason, the prefrontal cortex is what opens us to freedom and creativity.

Perhaps few manage to realize that when making decisions the worst obstacle or enemy to overcome is the mind itself, since a good part of our behaviors are unconscious. 

These almost automatic behaviors are called “heuristic” routines and are intended to help the person in the choices that they must make on a daily basis. In other words, they are internal processes that automate choices and make it possible to choose alternatives expeditiously and economically in terms of energy consumption.

Decision making is more rational or intuitive?

Decisions are made from intuition, a concept that is nothing more than unconscious reasoning, much wiser than is often thought. In fact, most of the perception of the world is completely unconscious, since we only pay attention to things that are different or surprising: we ignore the rest and, in that, the prefrontal cortex has a lot to do.

It happens that certain areas of the cortex are activated that are related to what has been perceived or is intended to be done, although this stimulation does not reach the level of consciousness, a kind of “anchoring” or link with stereotypes or past experiences.

We are not aware of what we are doing or why, but we act, and, many times, the intuition is sudden – what is called a “hunch” -: things are done without knowing why, although when the reasons are analyzed, logical reasons are found to justify a behavior.

Also “knowledge” is a bias that can substantially alter any decision. In this field, Dan Ariely, a psychologist specializing in behavioral economics, demonstrated through an experiment published in Psychological Science how knowledge can influence and alter the perception of the senses.

Investigation 1

In his research, Ariely distributed samples of two types of beers for free: one Budweiser and one altered with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. In the blind test (without anticipating anything) it was shown that the majority of the participants preferred the modified drink. 

However, the situation was explained to another group before the tasting, and all preferred the beer without altering it. Even if they tried the adulterated one, they confirmed its bad taste.

It happens that the expectations generated by knowledge should not affect the real experience of the senses, but, decidedly, they do with respect to perception and this conditions the choice. The expectation developed from the knowledge changes the lived experience.

Investigation 2

This has also been proven in a blind test carried out by the Pepsi Cola company. In it, two glasses of cola were presented, one of them from Pepsi and the other from Coca Cola. 

The winner was the first, but when the participant was quickly informed the choice fell on the second. Obviously, brand awareness has a transcendent effect on the choice of a product.

How much influence does the way they raise us in making decisions?

Undoubtedly, another substantial bias in any decision is “obedience”, since throughout childhood, and even in the labor system, it is taught about the importance of following orders and mandates. 

Consequently, the tendency to comply with the received provision is maintained even when not aware of it, and hence the “buy now” of some notices. 

Everything is closely linked to authority, and the influence capacity of reference groups can be observed, where the need to belong makes what is decided an almost impossible norm if it is not carried out.

Therefore, “factual dominance” is interesting in decisions, especially because of the tendency to cling to the first action without considering all the potentially possible ones and hence the propensity to opt for the first dishes on a menu or the first items exposed in a local.

Now, how does the brain decide which responses to heed? How do you ignore one of the processes for the other? What determines whether fear or desire wins? All these issues have not yet been definitively resolved given the great variety of factors that intercede and influence such complex processing.

What part of the brain decides in a quick response?

The brain amygdala is responsible for recognition and rapid response to threatening or dangerous stimuli. In parallel, the nucleus accumbens, which is the brain’s reward system, is stimulated and leads to seeking pleasant activities, such as immediate responses.

Finally, the prefrontal cortex allows you to evaluate and control instinctual desires based on experience and specific context. In this way it can manage the activation of the amygdala, modulate the emotional response and, furthermore, evaluate the activation of the nucleus accumbens by weighting the weight of the gain. 

Concomitantly, it inhibits impulsive behavior because it is in charge of reasoning, that is, of weighing the real danger of the situation, the short and long-term consequences, the potential benefits, etc.

Investigation 3

Neuroscientist William T. Newsome, from Stanford University, measured the activity of neurons during decision making with electrodes implanted in the brain of monkeys and was able to observe how the variables influenced the activation of different areas.

Their work, published in Neuron, found the activation of hundreds of thousands of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, and revealed that as cell activation increases, at some point, the pattern of some neurons will win out over others and the decision will be taken.

In human beings the emotions are more complex and the processing as well, reaching the emotions to be able to control and saturate the prefrontal cortex and preventing its correct functioning.

Furthermore, the value that a particular fear has or is assigned to a particular reinforcement will vary from person to person. This is postulated by some as a factor pertaining to personality (which may be due to variations in connectivity between brain regions).

Before making a decision, it is important to analyze the conditions that surround it as context or circumstances, and then, the brain, prior to making the choice, has to process that information in order to then be able to make the correct choice.

What other factors does the brain take to make a decision?

With each decision we create our life, since we are the sum of what we have decided. Developing the ability to make resolutions is crucial to shape the life we ​​want since decisions are the engine that move our actions and influence the present and help create the future.

However, it is not always easy to decide. Sometimes we do it automatically and almost without realizing it, but there are other situations that paralyze us and we get stuck without knowing what to do. And it is precisely this disability that conditions conflicts in social, personal and work life.

Making a decision is taking a loss and nobody likes to lose. Deciding is ruling out, and in choosing one way to proceed we are omitting all the others. For this reason, action is often postponed.

Which frontal lobe group works to make a decision?

According to the data obtained by William T. Newsome’s team, decisions would be made by a single group of neurons located in the frontal lobe, which would integrate the information and then make a single choice, always evaluating the various alternatives.

However, to move forward you have to be able to decide. Say: “This is my path, I choose it.” However, it is valid to understand something fundamental: not deciding is also a way of deciding; it is letting circumstances or others choose for you.

That is why it is advisable to think not only about the decision itself, but also to weigh the consequences and the effects it will have. Do not be afraid of doubts, because they are part of the decision process. Therefore, once the alternatives and their consequences have been evaluated, one must take action, and it is good to remember the phrase of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “The whole world turns away when it sees a man passing by who knows where he is going.”

FAQS: Part of the brain that controls decision making

Which part of the brain is responsible for logical decision making?

The frontal lobe. 

At the front of the brain, the frontal lobe is responsible for planning, organization, critical thought, reasoning and emotion control.

Which part of the brain deals with Judgement and decision making?

In neuroscience, a prevalent hypothesis holds that individuals make choices based on integrated global equations that arise within the brain’s frontal cortex.

What challenges can impede the making of healthy decisions?

Hurdles faced during successful decision making.

The decision-making standard is not clear. Often, the extent of control a manager has, whether he has the right to make improvements to the current structure, is unclear.

Which part of the smell activates the brain?

Parietal lobe 

From the five senses of sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste, it works out the messages you get. This part of the brain tells you what is part of the outside world and what is part of the body.

In this article we explained the part of the brain that controls emotions and how it develops to make decisions. We also talked about how the brain developed in different circumstances when making decisions.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


Sugrue, L. P., Corrado, G. S., & Newsome, W. T. (2005). Choosing the greater of two goods: neural currencies for valuation and decision making. Nat Rev Neurosci, 6(5):363-75.

Bechara, A., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. R. (2003). Role of the amygdala in decision-making. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 985:356-69.

Fetsch, C. R., Kiani, R., Newsome, W. T., & Shadlen, M. N. (2014). Effects of cortical microstimulation on confidence in a perceptual decision. Neuron, 83(4):797-804. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.07.011