Changing value through cued approach: an automatic mechanism of behavior change

Abstract

It is believed that choice behavior reveals the underlying value of goods. The subjective values of stimuli can be changed through reward-based learning mechanisms as well as by modifying the description of the decision problem, but it has yet to be shown that preferences can be manipulated by perturbing intrinsic values of individual items. Here we show that the value of food items can be modulated by the concurrent presentation of an irrelevant auditory cue to which subjects must make a simple motor response (i.e., cue-approach training). Follow-up tests showed that the effects of this pairing on choice lasted at least 2 months after prolonged training. Eye-tracking during choice confirmed that cue-approach training increased attention to the cued items. Neuroimaging revealed the neural signature of a value change in the form of amplified preference-related activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

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Figure 1: Task procedure.
Figure 2: Behavioral results for cue-approach and cue-avoidance studies.
Figure 3: Imaging results from the probe phase.
Figure 4: Imaging results from the last training run.

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Acknowledgements

We thank N. Malecek for assistance with eye-tracking, C. Leuker for assistance with data collection, and A. Aron, C. Fox, C. Trepel and C. White for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This research was supported by a grant from US National Institutes of Health (1R01AG041653).

Author information

T.S., A.B. and R.A.P. designed the experiment, T.S., A.B., A.H.M., L.N. and J.P. conducted the experiment, T.S., A.B., A.H.M. and J.A.M. analyzed the data, and T.S., A.B. and R.A.P. discussed the results and wrote the paper.

Correspondence to Tom Schonberg.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Integrated supplementary information

Supplementary Figure 1 Sorting and pairing procedure used for studies 1–6, 8 and 9.

Diagram of the sorting and pairing procedure used for studies 1 through 6, 8 and 9.

Supplementary Figure 2 Sorting and pairing procedure used for study 7.

Diagram of the sorting and pairing procedure used for Study 7.

Supplementary Figure 3 Proportion of choices of the Go item for studies 7 and 8.

Retest of Probe after 1 week and 1 month for Study 7. Proportion of choices of the GO item in pairs of high value Go versus NoGo (dark grey) and low value Go versus NoGo (light grey) items for each of Study 7, Study 7 Retest 1 (1 week after original training), Study 7 Retest 2 (1 month after original training) as well as Study 8 (where participants heard a tone, but were not required to press a button). The larger effect size in Study 7 may be due to the fact that in this study only 30 items were presented during training. This will need to be examined in future studies to control for the difference in chosen items below the median.

Supplementary Figure 4 Proportion of total gaze time during retest probe of study 4.

Proportion of total choice time during retest probe that gaze position was on the high Go (black) or high NoGo (white) item in a pair for trials when Go or NoGo items were chosen separately. The sample is a subset of Study 4 Retest. Seventeen participants had their eye positions recorded with an eye tracker while performing a probe on average two months after cue-approach training. Effects are discussed in the text. Error bars reflect within subject SEM.

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Supplementary Figures 1–4 and Supplementary Tables 1–5 (PDF 852 kb)

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Schonberg, T., Bakkour, A., Hover, A. et al. Changing value through cued approach: an automatic mechanism of behavior change. Nat Neurosci 17, 625–630 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3673

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