Why skill matters

Trends Cogn Sci. 2013 Sep;17(9):434-41. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.07.001. Epub 2013 Aug 1.


Maximizing rewards per unit time is ideal for success and survival in humans and animals. This goal can be approached by speeding up behavior aiming at rewards and this is done most efficiently by acquiring skills. Importantly, reward-directed skills consist of two components: finding a good object (i.e., object skill) and acting on the object (i.e., action skill), which occur sequentially. Recent studies suggest that object skill is based on high-capacity memory for object-value associations. When a learned object is encountered the corresponding memory is quickly expressed as a value-based gaze bias, leading to the automatic acquisition or avoidance of the object. Object skill thus plays a crucial role in increasing rewards per unit time.

Keywords: Object–value memory; automaticity; gaze; reward delay; saccade; stable value.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Eye Movements
  • Humans
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Reward*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*