Thinking Quantum

A new trend taking shape in psychological science not only uses quantum physics to explain humans’ (sometimes) paradoxical thinking. It may also help researchers resolve contradictions in previous studies.

According to Zheng Joyce Wang, Associate Professor of Communications at the Ohio State University and others who try to model our decision-making processes mathematically, the equations and axioms that most closely match human behavior may be ones that are rooted in quantum physics.

Thinking quantum – in other words not following a conventional approach – lets humans make important decisions in the face of uncertainty and lets us face the complex though our mental resources may not be fully up to the task.

At times in human behavior research behaviors “that don’t add up”. From the classical point of view, those behaviors are “irrational”.

We usually think of quantum physics as describing the behavior of sub-atomic particles, not the behavior of people. Wang’s research program neither assumes nor proposes that our brains are literally quantum computers. Other research groups are working on that idea; Wang and her collaborators are not focusing on the physical aspects of the brain, but rather on how abstract mathematical principles of quantum theory can shed light on human cognition and behaviors.

Quantum physics deals with ambiguity in the physical world. The state of a particular particle, the energy it contains, its location – all are uncertain and have to be calculated in terms of probabilities.

Quantum cognition is what happens when humans have to deal with ambiguity mentally. Sometimes we aren’t certain about how we feel, or we feel ambiguous about which option to choose, or we have to make decisions based on limited information. That is when we begin to think like Quantum Physics.