CCN meeting | Amitai Shenhav (Brown University, USA)

19-09-2019 from 15:00 to 16:00
Henri Dunantlaan 2, room 4.5
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Weighing the costs and benefits of control

Most of our goals can only be achieved if we are motivated to exert the necessary mental effort (i.e., cognitive control), yet little is known about how we decide when and how much effort to invest. We have proposed a model for how these decisions can be made through a process of weighing the costs and benefits of a given allocation of cognitive control. This model can account for a variety of ways in which incentives and task demands influence behavioral performance (e.g., variability in accuracy and response time) and task selection (e.g., decisions to work harder or give up). I will describe recent theoretical work that uses this model to refine theories of self-control; to identify the best metrics of individual differences in the capacity for control; and to account for effort’s occasionally rewarding nature. I will also describe empirical work that seeks to validate and constrain predictions of the model, testing the mechanisms by which incentives are integrated to inform different forms of effort allocation. By examining the computations and circuits that drive mental effort, this work provides a path towards understanding when and why people fail to invest such effort, including in the form of chronic motivational impairments observed in many psychiatric and neurological disorders (e.g., depression and Alzheimer’s).