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A unifying Bayesian account of contextual effects in value-based choice

Rigoli, F. ORCID: 0000-0003-2233-934X, Mathys, C., Friston, K. J. & Dolan, R. J. (2017). A unifying Bayesian account of contextual effects in value-based choice. PLoS Computational Biology, 13(10), e1005769. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005769


Empirical evidence suggests the incentive value of an option is affected by other options available during choice and by options presented in the past. These contextual effects are hard to reconcile with classical theories and have inspired accounts where contextual influences play a crucial role. However, each account only addresses one or the other of the empirical findings and a unifying perspective has been elusive. Here, we offer a unifying theory of context effects on incentive value attribution and choice based on normative Bayesian principles. This formulation assumes that incentive value corresponds to a precision-weighted prediction error, where predictions are based upon expectations about reward. We show that this scheme explains a wide range of contextual effects, such as those elicited by other options available during choice (or within-choice context effects). These include both conditions in which choice requires an integration of multiple attributes and conditions where a multi-attribute integration is not necessary. Moreover, the same scheme explains context effects elicited by options presented in the past or between-choice context effects. Our formulation encompasses a wide range of contextual influences (comprising both within- and between-choice effects) by calling on Bayesian principles, without invoking ad-hoc assumptions. This helps clarify the contextual nature of incentive value and choice behaviour and may offer insights into psychopathologies characterized by dysfunctional decision-making, such as addiction and pathological gambling.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2017 Rigoli et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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