While the combined use of computational modelling and experimental techniques in neuroscience has been fruitful for studying decision-making, it has mostly focused on general principles of reward-based decision-making and has not been utilized to examine wider implications for human well-being. On the other hand, the emerging field of positive psychology has provided a framework for the study of human flourishing and well-being, but has made little progress in elucidating the associated neural processes. One exciting and unexplored avenue of research is to combine computational neuroscience with interviewing and self-report techniques to reveal how distinct aspects of decision-making contribute to positive human flourishing and well-being. For example, it is unclear how specific parameters of the decision-making process (i.e. learning rate, temporal discount rate, exploratory tendency), which are well defined in computational terms, may contribute to different aspects of well-being. This approach bridges the gap between objective and subjective measures of human experience and further opens the possibility of developing a computational and neuro-phenomenological characterization of human flourishing and well-being. We propose that well-being and human flourishing are not merely the result of maximizing reward or pleasure; but rather that these arise as a result of cultivating cognitive resources such as adaptability and exploratory tendency in decision-making. We will explore this hypothesis by combining computational models of decision-making, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI data), and in-depth interviewing and self-report techniques to assess how specific parameters of decision-making contribute to and account for inter-individual variability in reported flourishing and well-being. This study will generate a significant move towards a computational and neurophenomenological characterization of human flourishing and well being.

Hans Melo

University of Toronto