1. Neuroscience
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How prior preferences determine decision-making frames and biases in the human brain

  1. Alizée Lopez-Persem
  2. Philippe Domenech
  3. Mathias Pessiglione  Is a corresponding author
  1. Motivation, Brain and Behavior lab, France
  2. Inserm U1127, CNRS U 7225, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France
  3. Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière, France
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2016;5:e20317 doi: 10.7554/eLife.20317


Understanding how option values are compared when making a choice is a key objective for decision neuroscience. In natural situations, agents may have a priori on their preferences that create default policies and shape the neural comparison process. We asked participants to make choices between items belonging to different categories (e.g., jazz vs. rock music). Behavioral data confirmed that items taken from the preferred category were chosen more often and more rapidly, which qualified them as default options. FMRI data showed that baseline activity in classical brain valuation regions, such as the ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (vmPFC), reflected the strength of prior preferences. In addition, evoked activity in the same regions scaled with the default option value, irrespective of the eventual choice. We therefore suggest that in the brain valuation system, choices are framed as comparisons between default and alternative options, which might save some resource but induce a decision bias.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Alizée Lopez-Persem

    Motivation, Brain and Behavior lab, Paris, France
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-7566-5715
  2. Philippe Domenech

    Inserm U1127, CNRS U 7225, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Mathias Pessiglione

    Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière, Paris, France
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


European Research Council (ERC-BioMotiv)

  • Mathias Pessiglione

Agence Nationale de la Recherche

  • Mathias Pessiglione

Direction Générale de l'Armement

  • Alizée Lopez-Persem

LabEx BioPsy

  • Alizée Lopez-Persem

LabEx Biopsy (ANR-11-IDEX-0004-02)

  • Philippe Domenech

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Human subjects: The study was approved by the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital ethics committee (protocole C12-69). All subjects were recruited via e-mail within an academic database and gave informed consent to participate and consent to publish before participation in the study.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Michael J Frank, Brown University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: August 6, 2016
  2. Accepted: November 14, 2016
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: November 19, 2016 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: December 1, 2016 (version 2)


© 2016, Lopez-Persem et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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