Indeterminacy in brain and behavior

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The central goal of modern science that evolved during the Enlightenment was the empirical reduction of uncertainty by experimental inquiry. Although there have been challenges to this view in the physical sciences, where profoundly indeterminate events have been identified at the quantum level, the presumption that physical phenomena are fundamentally determinate seems to have defined modern behavioral science. Programs like those of the classical behaviorists, for example, were explicitly anchored to a fully deterministic worldview, and this anchoring clearly influenced the experiments that those scientists chose to perform. Recent advances in the psychological, social, and neural sciences, however, have caused a number of scholars to begin to question the assumption that all of behavior can be regarded as fundamentally deterministic in character. Although it is not yet clear whether the generative mechanisms for human and animal behavior will require a philosophically indeterminate approach, it is clear that behavioral scientists of all kinds are beginning to engage the issues of indeterminacy that plagued physics at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-56
Number of pages32
JournalAnnual review of psychology
StatePublished - 2005


  • Choice
  • Decision-making
  • Game theory
  • Randomness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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