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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51637. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051637. Epub 2012 Dec 19.

The decision to engage cognitive control is driven by expected reward-value: neural and behavioral evidence.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. mattdixon@psych.ubc.ca

Abstract

Cognitive control is a fundamental skill reflecting the active use of task-rules to guide behavior and suppress inappropriate automatic responses. Prior work has traditionally used paradigms in which subjects are told when to engage cognitive control. Thus, surprisingly little is known about the factors that influence individuals' initial decision of whether or not to act in a reflective, rule-based manner. To examine this, we took three classic cognitive control tasks (Stroop, Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, Go/No-Go task) and created novel 'free-choice' versions in which human subjects were free to select an automatic, pre-potent action, or an action requiring rule-based cognitive control, and earned varying amounts of money based on their choices. Our findings demonstrated that subjects' decision to engage cognitive control was driven by an explicit representation of monetary rewards expected to be obtained from rule-use. Subjects rarely engaged cognitive control when the expected outcome was of equal or lesser value as compared to the value of the automatic response, but frequently engaged cognitive control when it was expected to yield a larger monetary outcome. Additionally, we exploited fMRI-adaptation to show that the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) represents associations between rules and expected reward outcomes. Together, these findings suggest that individuals are more likely to act in a reflective, rule-based manner when they expect that it will result in a desired outcome. Thus, choosing to exert cognitive control is not simply a matter of reason and willpower, but rather, conforms to standard mechanisms of value-based decision making. Finally, in contrast to current models of LPFC function, our results suggest that the LPFC plays a direct role in representing motivational incentives.

PMID:
23284730
PMCID:
PMC3526643
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0051637
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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