Cognitive effort is described as aversive, and people will generally avoid it when possible. This aversion to effort is believed to arise from a cost–benefit analysis of the actions available. The comparison of cognitive effort against other primary aversive experiences, however, remains relatively unexplored. Here, we offered participants choices between performing a cognitively demanding task or experiencing thermal pain. We found that cognitive effort can be traded off for physical pain and that people generally avoid exerting high levels of cognitive effort. We also used computational modelling to examine the aversive subjective value of effort and its effects on response behaviours. Applying this model to decision times revealed asymmetric effects of effort and pain, suggesting that cognitive effort may not share the same basic influences on avoidance behaviour as more primary aversive stimuli such as physical pain.
All data analyzed for this study can be found on OSF (https://osf.io/n4cht/).
Forced Choices Reveal a Trade-Off between Cognitive Effort and Physical PainOpen Science Framework, n4cht.
- A Ross Otto
- A Ross Otto
- Mathieu Roy
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: Informed written consent was obtained from all participants and the study was approved by the McGill University Research Ethics Board (REB File # 247-1117).
- Jonathan Roiser, University College London, United Kingdom
© 2020, Vogel 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.