Economic Choice as an Untangling of Options into Actions

Seng Bum Michael Yoo, Benjamin Yost Hayden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We propose that economic choice can be understood as a gradual transformation from a domain of options to one of the actions. We draw an analogy with the idea of untangling information in the form vision system and propose that form vision and economic choice may be two aspects of a larger process that sculpts actions based on sensory inputs. From this viewpoint, choice results from the accumulated effect of repetitions of simple computations. These may consist primarily of relative valuations (evaluations relative to the value of rejection, perhaps in a manner akin to divisive normalization) applied to individual offers. With regard to economic choice, cortical brain regions differ primarily in their position and in what information they prioritize, and do not—with a few exceptions—have categorically distinct roles. Each region's specific contribution is determined largely by its inputs; thus, understanding connectivity is crucial for understanding choice. This view suggests that there is no single site of choice, that there is no meaningful distinction between pre- and post-decisionality, and that there is no explicit representation of value in the brain. The region for processing economic choice has been considered as functional patches processing abstracted variables exclusively. Yoo and Hayden propose an alternative perspective that the economic choice regions sit middle of information processing stream of brain and transform information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-447
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 8 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Habiba Azab for helpful comments on this manuscript. This research was supported by a National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant R01-DA-038106 (to B.Y.H.). The funder had no role in study design, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018


  • Untangling
  • affordance competition
  • economic choice
  • functional neuroanatomy
  • value


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