We’re Hardwired to Doubt—And It’s a Good Thing


Doubt helps us avoid acting on every passing idea which can prevent us from participating in certain types of risk. We should all cut ourselves some slack for how much we doubt. If you take seriously what research suggests, we may actually be wired for it.

Overt evidence of a biological basis for doubt comes from neuroscientific findings by researchers at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Erik Asp and colleagues presented eight different consumer advertisements to 18 patients who had suffered localized damage to an area of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), as well as to two other group of patients (some with damage in the brain but outside this specific area) and the other group a set of healthy control patients. Based on foregoing studies, the researchers suspected that the vmPFC brain region plays a role in facilitating self-protective skepticism (e.g. for misleading ads). Study results suggested that patients with vmPFC damage were significantly more likely to be swayed to purchase products from these ads than patients with other forms of brain damage, or healthy individuals. To read more from Mitch Abblett, click here.