Value-based attentional capture influences context-dependent decision-making

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Jul;114(1):560-9. doi: 10.1152/jn.00343.2015. Epub 2015 May 20.


Normative theories posit that value-based decision-making is context independent. However, decisions between two high-value options can be suboptimally biased by the introduction of a third low-value option. This context-dependent modulation is consistent with the divisive normalization of the value of each stimulus by the total value of all stimuli. In addition, an independent line of research demonstrates that pairing a stimulus with a high-value outcome can lead to attentional capture that can mediate the efficiency of visual information processing. Here we tested the hypothesis that value-based attentional capture interacts with value-based normalization to influence the optimality of decision-making. We used a binary-choice paradigm in which observers selected between two targets and the color of each target indicated the magnitude of their reward potential. Observers also had to simultaneously ignore a task-irrelevant distractor rendered in a color that was previously associated with a specific reward magnitude. When the color of the task-irrelevant distractor was previously associated with a high reward, observers responded more slowly and less optimally. Moreover, as the learned value of the distractor increased, electrophysiological data revealed an attenuation of the lateralized N1 and N2Pc responses evoked by the relevant choice stimuli and an attenuation of the late positive deflection (LPD). Collectively, these behavioral and electrophysiological data suggest that value-based attentional capture and value-based normalization jointly mediate the influence of context on free-choice decision-making.

Keywords: EEG; attention; decision-making; reward; value normalization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Reward*
  • Uncertainty
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult