Studying the Brain with Quantum Mechanics?

Some psychologists think that the mathematical tools of quantum mechanics could help them understand human behavior. They don’t think that our brains actually function at the quantum level but that the statistics of quantum mechanics could help them predict human behavior.

Quantum mechanics may not seem like it has anything to do with human psychology, but some psychologists are starting to borrow concepts from the field to help make human behavior more predictable. SciShow Psych

Statistics can help us understand the big picture even when we don’t know all the lower-level details, like how a group of people will vote or how the brain selects certain details to remember and others to forget.

Psychologists have been exploring whether or not quantum mechanics can be used to help understand the brain. They’ve found that quantum cognition models are already performing as well or better than classical models at predicting some kinds of human behavior.

The classical cognition model doesn’t explain why subjects in the coin-flip experiment didn’t want to play again if they didn’t know whether they’d won or lost. However, the double-slit experiment shows that in the quantum world, simply not knowing can produce a totally unexpected result.

Scientists use quantum probability theory to predict human decision-making, even if we don’t understand precisely why. For example, they were able to use this theory to correctly predict people’s decisions in the coin-flip experiment, even when the classical model failed.

Human behavior

The order of questions you ask someone can affect the answer they give; for example, if you ask how they got along with their sister after they’ve gotten into a fight. Quantum mechanics can explain this by making the basic math seem more complicated.

Researchers studied 70 national surveys and used quantum-inspired math to make predictions about how the order of the questions would affect the answers. The predictions were right, and the results proved them right.

Human behavior can sometimes seem unpredictable, but the tools of quantum mechanics can give us a way to understand why. For instance, when you stare long enough at an optical illusion, your perception will randomly switch back and forth.

Scientists have found that the way people’s brains process optical illusions can be modeled as a simple, two-state quantum system and that this model can be used to explain why humans are sometimes so unpredictable.


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