Behavior is guided by previous experience. Good, positive outcomes drive a repetition of a previous behavior or choice, whereas poor or bad outcomes lead to an avoidance. How these basic drives are implemented by the brain has been of primary interest to psychology and neuroscience. We engaged animals in a choice task in which the size of a reward outcome strongly governed the animals' subsequent decision whether to repeat or switch the previous choice. We recorded the discharge activity of neurons implicated in reward-based choice in 2 regions of parietal cortex. We found that the tendency to retain previous choice following a large (small) reward was paralleled by a marked decrease (increase) in the activity of parietal neurons. This neural effect is independent of, and of sign opposite to, value-based modulations reported in parietal cortex previously. This effect shares the same basic properties with signals previously reported in the limbic system that detect the size of the recently obtained reward to mediate proper repeat-switch decisions. We conclude that the size of the obtained reward is a decision variable that guides the decision between retaining a choice or switching, and neurons in parietal cortex strongly respond to this novel decision variable.
- economic choice
- law of effect