Uncertainty is a fact of life that must be accommodated in real-world decision making. Although it has been suggested that the right prefrontal cortex (PFC) has a special role to play in decision making under uncertainty, there is very little hard data to support this hypothesis. To better understand the roles of left and right PFCs in reasoning and decision making in situations with complete and incomplete information, we administered simple inference problems to 18 patients with lateralized focal lesions to PFC (9 right hemisphere, 9 left hemisphere) and 22 age- and education-matched normal controls. The stimuli were systematically manipulated for completeness of information regarding the status of the conclusion. Our results demonstrated a 2-way interaction such that patients with left PFC lesions were selectively impaired in trials with complete information, whereas patients with right PFC lesions were selectively impaired in trials with incomplete information. These results provide compelling evidence for hemispheric specialization for reasoning in PFC and suggest that the right PFC has a critical role to play in reasoning about incompletely specified situations. We postulate this role involves the maintenance of ambiguous mental representations that temper premature overinterpretation by the left hemisphere.
- Decision making
- Frontal lobes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience