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Sci Rep. 2020 Feb 5;10(1):1868. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-58686-0.

Judgments of effort exerted by others are influenced by received rewards.

Author information

1
Perception and Cognition Group, European Neuroscience Institute Göttingen (a Joint Initiative of the University Medical Center Göttingen and the Max-Planck-Society), Göttingen, Germany. max.rollwage.16@ucl.ac.uk.
2
Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, London, United Kingdom. max.rollwage.16@ucl.ac.uk.
3
Max Planck University College London Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, London, United Kingdom. max.rollwage.16@ucl.ac.uk.
4
Perception and Cognition Group, European Neuroscience Institute Göttingen (a Joint Initiative of the University Medical Center Göttingen and the Max-Planck-Society), Göttingen, Germany.
5
Biological Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
6
Decision and Awareness Group, Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, German Primate Center - Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Göttingen, Germany.
7
Leibniz ScienceCampus Primate Cognition, Göttingen, Germany.
8
Perception and Cognition Group, European Neuroscience Institute Göttingen (a Joint Initiative of the University Medical Center Göttingen and the Max-Planck-Society), Göttingen, Germany. a.pooresmaeili@eni-g.de.
9
Leibniz ScienceCampus Primate Cognition, Göttingen, Germany. a.pooresmaeili@eni-g.de.

Abstract

Estimating invested effort is a core dimension for evaluating own and others' actions, and views on the relationship between effort and rewards are deeply ingrained in various societal attitudes. Internal representations of effort, however, are inherently noisy, e.g. due to the variability of sensorimotor and visceral responses to physical exertion. The uncertainty in effort judgments is further aggravated when there is no direct access to the internal representations of exertion - such as when estimating the effort of another person. Bayesian cue integration suggests that this uncertainty can be resolved by incorporating additional cues that are predictive of effort, e.g. received rewards. We hypothesized that judgments about the effort spent on a task will be influenced by the magnitude of received rewards. Additionally, we surmised that such influence might further depend on individual beliefs regarding the relationship between hard work and prosperity, as exemplified by a conservative work ethic. To test these predictions, participants performed an effortful task interleaved with a partner and were informed about the obtained reward before rating either their own or the partner's effort. We show that higher rewards led to higher estimations of exerted effort in self-judgments, and this effect was even more pronounced for other-judgments. In both types of judgment, computational modelling revealed that reward information and sensorimotor markers of exertion were combined in a Bayes-optimal manner in order to reduce uncertainty. Remarkably, the extent to which rewards influenced effort judgments was associated with conservative world-views, indicating links between this phenomenon and general beliefs about the relationship between effort and earnings in society.

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