Using Quantum Physics to Explain Thoughts and Behaviors

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Although we may hate to admit it, we often do things that disdain logic. In a quest to explain this behavior, psychological scientists are turning to quantum physics to explain the (sometimes) paradoxical thinking.

Investigations believe this approach can also help researchers resolve certain contradictions among the results of previous psychological studies.

“We have accumulated so many paradoxical findings in the field of cognition, and especially in decision-making,” said Dr. Zheng Joyce Wang, an associate professor of communication and director of the Communication and Psychophysiology Lab at the Ohio State University.

“Whenever something comes up that isn’t consistent with classical theories, we often label it as ‘irrational.’ But from the perspective of quantum cognition, some findings aren’t irrational anymore. They’re consistent with quantum theory and with how people really behave.”

In two new review papers in academic journals, Wang and her colleagues spell out their new theoretical approach to psychology. One paper appears in Current Directions in Psychological Science, and the other in Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Their work suggests that thinking in a quantum-like way — that is, not following a conventional approach based on classical probability theory — enables humans to make important decisions in the face of uncertainty. This in turn, allows us to confront complex questions despite our limited mental resources.

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