Previous studies have shown that the pupils dilate more in anticipation of larger rewards. This finding raises the possibility of a more general association between reward amount and pupil size. We tested this idea by characterizing macaque pupil responses to offered rewards during evaluation and comparison in a binary choice task. To control attention, we made use of a design in which offers occurred in sequence. By looking at pupil responses after choice but before reward, we confirmed the previously observed positive association between pupil size and anticipated reward values. Surprisingly, however, we find that pupil size is negatively correlated with the value of offered gambles before choice, during both evaluation and comparison stages of the task. These results demonstrate a functional distinction between offered and anticipated rewards and present evidence against a narrow version of the simulation hypothesis; the idea that we represent offers by reactivating states associated with anticipating them. They also suggest that pupil size is correlated with relative, not absolute, values of offers, suggestive of an accept–reject model of comparison.
- Pupil size