Incentive value (also referred to as utility or subjective value) is a key construct of theories of decision making and motivation. Many perspectives (e.g., reinforcement learning and associative learning) often assume that certain stimuli (unconditioned stimuli) are imbued with an incentive value that is fixed. However, recent accounts have proposed the notion that incentive value is a function of the distribution of incentives expected within a context. In this talk, I will discuss these recent accounts, and present behavioural data in support of their predictions. I will also present recent data on how context sensitivity of incentive value is realized in the brain. These highlight a critical role of hippocampus in processing contextual information, and of dopaminergic midbrain in representing a value signal modulated by the contextual distribution of incentives.
Host: Chris Summerfield/Vickie Li