Risk and ambiguity are inherent in virtually all human decision-making. Risk refers to a situation in which we know the precise probability of potential outcomes of each option, whereas ambiguity refers to a situation in which outcome probabilities are not known. A large body of research has shown that individuals prefer known risks to ambiguity, a phenomenon known as ambiguity aversion. One heated debate concerns whether risky and ambiguous decisions rely on the same or distinct neural circuits. In the current meta-analyses, we integrated the results of neuroimaging research on decision-making under risk (n = 69) and ambiguity (n = 31). Our results showed that both processing of risk and ambiguity showed convergence in anterior insula, indicating a key role of anterior insula in encoding uncertainty. Risk additionally engaged dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) and ventral striatum, whereas ambiguity specifically recruited the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), inferior parietal lobe (IPL) and right anterior insula. Our findings demonstrate overlapping and distinct neural substrates underlying different types of uncertainty, guiding future neuroimaging research on risk-taking and ambiguity aversion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas