The proactive brain: Using rudimentary information to make predictive judgments

M. Bar, M. Neta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a recent cognitive neuroscience framework we proposed to consider the human brain as proactive, in that it continuously generates predictions about what to expect in the environment. These continuous predictions are extremely rapid, and depend on similarities between novel inputs and the closest familiar representations stored in memory. For example, if you see a chair that you have never seen before, you can still determine what it is, its function, approximate weight, approximate price, and other such characteristics. To derive these analogies rapidly we rely on surprisingly little information. This paper provides a theoretical expansion of our work by describing studies and ideas that collectively synthesize to illustrate this unifying principle of the human brain. We specify the nature of the information used to form impressions, preferences, judgments and predictions, propose neural circuits that mediate these vital mental skills, and derive novel hypotheses that can be tested in the future. This proposal implies that mental life and behavior are guided by “scripts,” which are developed with experience and stored in memory. This framework has broad ramifications, ranging from clinical psychology and mental illness, to the study of consumer behavior.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)319-330
JournalJournal of Consumer Behaviour
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008


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