13: Reasoning and Decision Making

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No matter which public topic you discuss or which personal aspect you worry about – you need reasons for your opinion and argumentation. Moreover, the ability of reasoning is responsible for your cognitive features of decision making and choosing among alternatives.

Everyone of us uses these two abilities in everyday life to the utmost. Let us, therefore, consider the following scene of Knut's life:

“It is again a rainy afternoon in Osnabrück (Germany) and as Knut and his wife are tired of observing the black crows in their garden they decide to escape from the shabby weather and spend their holidays in Spain. Knut has never been to Spain before and is pretty excited. They will leave the next day, thus he is packing his bag. The crucial things first: some underwear, some socks, a pair of pyjamas and his wash bag with a toothbrush, shampoo, soap, sun milk and insect spray. But, Knut cannot find the insect spray until his wife tells him that she lost it and will buy some new. He advises her to take an umbrella for the way to the chemist as it is raining outside, before he turns back to his packing task. But what did he already pack into his bag? Immediately, he remembers and continues, packing his clothing into the bag, considering that each piece fits another one and finally his Ipod as he exclusively listens to music with this device. Since the two of them are going on summer holidays, Knut packs especially shorts and T-Shirts into his bag. After approximately half an hour, he is finally convinced that he has done everything necessary for having some fine holidays.”

With regard to this sketch of Knut's holiday preparation, we will explain the basic principles of reasoning and decision making. In the following, it will be shown how much cognitive work is necessary for this fragment of everyday life. After presenting an insight into the topic, we will illustrate what kind of brain lesions lead to what kind of impairments of these two cognitive features.

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