Affect-congruent attention modulates generalized reward expectations

Daniel Bennett, Angela Radulescu, Sam Zorowitz, Valkyrie Felso, Yael Niv

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Positive and negative affective states are respectively associated with optimistic and pessimistic expectations regarding future reward. One mechanism that might underlie these affect-related expectation biases is attention to positive- versus negative-valence features (e.g., attending to the positive reviews of a restaurant versus its expensive price). Here we tested the effects of experimentally induced positive and negative affect on feature-based attention in 120 participants completing a compound-generalization task with eye-tracking. We found that participants’ reward expectations for novel compound stimuli were modulated in an affect-congruent way: positive affect induction increased reward expectations for compounds, whereas negative affect induction decreased reward expectations. Computational modelling and eye-tracking analyses each revealed that these effects were driven by affect-congruent changes in participants’ allocation of attention to high- versus low-value features of compounds. These results provide mechanistic insight into a process by which affect produces biases in generalized reward expectations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1011707
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Ecology
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Modeling and Simulation


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