When choosing between options, such as food items presented in plain view, people tend to choose the option they spend longer looking at. The prevailing interpretation is that visual attention increases value. However, in previous studies, 'value' was coupled to a behavioural goal, since subjects had to choose the item they preferred. This makes it impossible to discern if visual attention has an effect on value, or, instead, if attention modulates the information most relevant for the goal of the decision-maker. Here we present the results of two independent studies—a perceptual and a value-based task—that allow us to decouple value from goal-relevant information using specific task-framing. Combining psychophysics with computational modelling, we show that, contrary to the current interpretation, attention does not boost value, but instead it modulates goal-relevant information. This work provides a novel and more general mechanism by which attention interacts with choice.
- Pradyumna Sepulveda
- Benedetto De Martino
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: All participants signed a consent form and both studies were done following the approval given by the University College London, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences ethics committee (project ID number 1825/003).
- Valentin Wyart, École normale supérieure, PSL University, INSERM, France
- Received: July 3, 2020
- Accepted: November 16, 2020
- Accepted Manuscript published: November 17, 2020 (version 1)
© 2020, Sepulveda 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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