When choosing between options, such as food items presented in plain view, people tend to choose the option they spend longer looking at. The prevailing interpretation is that visual attention increases value. However, in previous studies, ‘value’ was coupled to a behavioural goal, since subjects had to choose the item they preferred. This makes it impossible to discern if visual attention has an effect on value, or, instead, if attention modulates the information most relevant for the goal of the decision-maker. Here, we present the results of two independent studies—a perceptual and a value-based task—that allow us to decouple value from goal-relevant information using specific task-framing. Combining psychophysics with computational modelling, we show that, contrary to the current interpretation, attention does not boost value, but instead it modulates goal-relevant information. This work provides a novel and more general mechanism by which attention interacts with choice.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)