When it comes to making choices, past decisions may play a surprisingly large role. The traditional view of decision-making is that our choices are guided by what we remember about the outcomes of previous choices we’ve made. But in recent years, a complementary idea has arisen: that the mere memory of the choices we make, whatever their outcome, may affect future decisions.
Essentially, this idea posits that “when you’re deciding between two options that are roughly equivalent, you tend to prefer the previously chosen option over the other non-chosen option,” explains Lennart Luettgau, a cognitive science graduate student at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. In a recent paper in Nature Communications, he and his colleagues set out to look for evidence in the brain that might support such two-way influence between choice and memory.