Many different situations related to self control involve competition between two routes to decisions: default and frugal versus more resource-intensive. Examples include habits versus deliberative decisions, fatigue versus cognitive effort, and Pavlovian versus instrumental decision making. We propose that these situations are linked by a strikingly similar core dilemma, pitting the opportunity costs of monopolizing shared resources such as executive functions for some time, against the possibility of obtaining a better outcome. We offer a unifying normative perspective on this underlying rational meta-optimization, review how this may tie together recent advances in many separate areas, and connect several independent models. Finally, we suggest that the crucial mechanisms and meta-decision variables may be shared across domains.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience