Flexible combination of reward information across primates

Shiva Farashahi, Christopher H. Donahue, Benjamin Y. Hayden, Daeyeol Lee, Alireza Soltani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


A fundamental but rarely contested assumption in economics and neuroeconomics is that decision-makers compute subjective values of risky options by multiplying functions of reward probability and magnitude. By contrast, an additive strategy for valuation allows flexible combination of reward information required in uncertain or changing environments. We hypothesized that the level of uncertainty in the reward environment should determine the strategy used for valuation and choice. To test this hypothesis, we examined choice between risky options in humans and rhesus macaques across three tasks with different levels of uncertainty. We found that whereas humans and monkeys adopted a multiplicative strategy under risk when probabilities are known, both species spontaneously adopted an additive strategy under uncertainty when probabilities must be learned. Additionally, the level of volatility influenced relative weighting of certain and uncertain reward information, and this was reflected in the encoding of reward magnitude by neurons in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1215-1224
Number of pages10
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


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