A new study reveals new insights into choice overload, including the parts of the brain responsible for it and how many options the brain actually prefers when it is making a choice. In the study, volunteers were presented with pictures of scenic landscapes that they could have printed on a piece of merchandise such as a coffee mug. Each participant was offered a variety of sets of images containing six, 12 or 24 pictures. They were asked to make their decisions while a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine recorded activity in their brains. As a control, the volunteers were asked to browse the images again, but this time their image selection was made randomly by a computer. The fMRI scans revealed brain activity in two regions while the participants were making their choices: the anterior cingulate cortex, where the potential costs and benefits of decisions are weighed, and the striatum, a part of the brain responsible for determining value.
Provided by Caltech