Squid Game: decision making


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Created at02 November 2021
Update21 March 2023

The most popular and favoured series streamed on one of the most well-liked streaming platforms up to the date is called “Squid Game”, which has revealed us, its audience, how our brain takes decisions under risky and life-threatening conditions.

Squid Game: decision making

Gul Eryilmaz, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at NPISTANBUL Brain Hospital, which is affiliated with Uskudar University, has shared her medical opinion on well-known series Squid Game with respect to decision-making process.


Apart from topics of current interest such as social inequality, injustice, gambling, addictions, there are numerous age-restricted scenes of cruelty and physical violence, therefore, Squid Game is not appropriate for viewers under 18.

Games addiction  

Every decision taken by a participant of “games” has had a direct impact on his or her future, on lives of all participants. “We should bear in mind that those decisions have been taken under risky, life-threatening and flagrant circumstances”, the doctor said. “Squid Game” begins with an old Korean kids game scene. “Gambling and game addiction’s rates are quite high in South Korea and the majority of Asian countries. Gambling and game addiction topics are burning issues there,” Professor Eryilmaz continues, “because all kids play outdoor kids games, everyone wants to win, to be on top.” This desire to win stands from our childhood experience. Sometimes this condition might lead to gabling addiction.

Nothing passes without a trace.

Gambling is a type of addiction, being a psychiatric disorder with the tendency to constantly win more and more. “Gambling disorder inherits both cause and effect of addiction” said the doctor. Amygdala is located near the base of the brain, it is responsible for emotions and fear control and regulation. If this part of the brain has been injured or underwent chemical or other changes, its fails to function properly. Furthermore,  irrational behaviour, stressful environment and life-threatening conditions might also cause disfunctions of this part of the brain. “For instance”, continues the doctor, “trials on monkeys have shown that somatic manifistations such as high blood pressure, tachycardia (or high heart rate), sweating and others have a bad effect on brain thinking and decision making process.” 

Chosen ones

Only those people who tend to demonstrated risky behavioural patterns were chosen by games’ host. The first episode of Squid Game reveals the main character’s gambling addiction, when he bet on horse racing, stole his mother’s credit card and hacked its password. Players of “the games” are not simply bankrupts, they are individuals with risk-seeking behaviour, who are ready to put their lives at stake for the sake of a big prize.

Irrational reasoning  

On a regular basis we face the callenge of decision making process: what to eat for breakfast? Should I marry him or her? Should I resign? Should I buy a house or take out a loan for business? Numerous researches have come to the conclusion that our brain makes decisions based on our subjective experience and emotions.

How do we take a decision?

Regardless of our educational attainment, cultural background, knowledge people come to a decision or make a choice irrationally. “Our brain relies on our emotions and life experience” said the psychiatrist. Amygdala works as a signalling emergency system and interacts with hyppocampus that responsible for learning and keeping memories. When stimuli from amygdala reaches hyppocampus, the last conslidates all pieces of information received and enables us to adopt a decision on what to do next. “Apart from that”, continues Professor Eryilmaz, “our decision making process might be influenced by the reward’s characteristics, whether it is big or not, worthy of risk or not, etc”.

Amygdala-hyppocampus interaction

Basically, amygdala signals about danger, while hyppocampus is preoccupied with appropriate feedback and suitable reaction, further, all pieces of information are consolidated in the orbitofrontal cortex and, ultimately, we reach a decision. Taking in consideration that somatic manifestations also play their role in decision making process, in general, tendency to a risky behaviour is inherited in the nature of some people. Risky behavioural patterns as well as all kinds of addictions including gamlbing disorder should be diagnosed and treated, because those disorders affect overall brain functioning.

Ethics and moral behaviour

“Squig Game” series illustrrates the extent to which the players are ready to put their lives at risk in order to win in the end. Besides, the majority of the players turned their conscience off and violated ethical and moral norms accepted mutely worldwide. The doctor Gul Eryilmaz comes to a conclusion asking such questions as “Do we tend to behave differently depending on conditions?” “What is the extent to which fear affects our decision making process?” “Does fear affect mentally healthy individuals as it affects people with psychiatric disorders?” “Does it mean that people with psychiatric disorders are more likely to violate ethical or moral standards accepted in our society, because of brain malfunction they suffer from?”