Research paper: Testing the Brain’s Decision-Making Process In Humans


Of the 96 participants that responded to the survey, 46 were excluded due to partial survey completion. The R statistical software was used to conduct the data analysis.

The non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis test showed no significant difference between the control group(general) and the experimental group (strong math background) (p= 0.6171) in decision-making. However, the Pearson Correlation test performed in R programming (R- 4.0.4) showed a significant negative correlation between anxiety and confidence in both groups when solving either math or reading problems.

Figure 1. Control group decision-making (general major with not a strong math background)

                           Choose which task you want to complete

Figure 2. Experimental group decision-making (strong math background)

                             Choose which task you want to complete


Table 1. Correlation number (r) and p value for Experimental group

Correlation between               Solving math problemsSolving reading problems
Anxiety~confidence(r= -0.446, p= 0.02539(2) *)  (r= -0.364, p= 0.003(1) *)
Anxiety~effort(r= 0.121, p= 0.561(2))  (r= 0.277, p= 0.1)
Confidence~effort(r= 0.08, p= 0.697(2))  (r= 0.3, p= 0.08)
 Significant *p<0.05
Figure 3. Correlation between Anxiety and Confidence in the experimental group

Table 2. Correlation number (r) and p value for the control group

  Correlation between     Solving math problems  Solving reading problems
  Anxiety~confidence     (r= -0.563, p= 0.0034(2) *)  (r=-0.802, p= 1.369 e-0.6(2) *)
Anxiety~effort   (r= 0.425, p= 0.034(2) *)(r= 0.575, p= 0.0036(2)*)
Confidence~effort   (r= -0.37, p= 0.065(2))(r=-0.578, p= 0.002(2) *)
 Significant *p<0.05

There was a negative correlation between anxiety and confidence and a positive correlation between anxiety and effort in both groups for both reading and math problems. So, when the anxiety increased their confidence decreased, and their sense of effort increased. The confidence and effort were negatively correlated for the control group but positively correlated for the experimental group, however, this was not significant.

 Despite the fact that the decision-making was not significant, there was a trend for students choosing problems to lower their anxiety. For example, those who would rate the anxiety as 5 for solving math problem would choose reading, even when they had rated  as 5 the effort for reading.


Our results indicate that effort was not as important as the feeling of anxiety. Some students that rated effort for math problems as 5, still chose math problems because their anxiety in that case was low. This lines up with research and theories that explain how effort can also be valued and rewarding (Cacioppo, T. J., Petty, E, R., & Kao, F. 1984). Therefore, we think the sense of effort is important when deciding to avoid or participate in a task, however, the feelings and the experience behind that effort is what makes the difference.  If the task causes feelings of anxiety, as shown in our experiment, there is a more likely chance to avoid the task. But when anxiety is not that high, even if the task is more effortful, there will be participation.

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