Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
When ranking two alternatives by some criteria and only one of the alternatives is recognized, participants overwhelmingly adopt the strategy, termed the recognition heuristic (RH), of choosing the recognized alternative. Understanding the neural correlates underlying decisions that follow the RH could help determine whether people make judgments about the RH's applicability or simply choose the recognized alternative. We measured brain activity by using functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants indicated which of two cities they thought was larger (Experiment 1) or which city they recognized (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, increased activation was observed within the anterior frontomedian cortex (aFMC), precuneus, and retrosplenial cortex when participants followed the RH compared to when they did not. Experiment 2 revealed that RH decisional processes cannot be reduced to recognition memory processes. As the aFMC has previously been associated with self-referential judgments, we conclude that RH decisional processes involve an assessment about the applicability of the RH.