Psychology Faculty Publications

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Choice behavior combines discrimination between distinctive outcomes, preference for specific outcomes and relative valuation of comparable outcomes. Previous work has focused on 1 component (i.e., preference) disregarding other influential processes that might provide a more complete understanding. Animal models of choice have been explored primarily utilizing extensive training, limited freedom for multiple decisions and sparse behavioral measures constrained to a single phase of motivated action. The present study used a paradigm that combines different elements of previous methods with the goal to distinguish among components of choice and explore how well components match predictions based on risk-sensitive foraging strategies. In order to analyze discrimination and relative valuation, it was necessary to have an option that shifted and an option that remained constant. Shifting outcomes among weeks included a change in single-option outcome (0 to 1 to 2 pellets) or a change in mixed-option outcome (0 or 5 to 0 or 3 to 0 or 1 pellets). Constant outcomes among weeks were also mixed-option (0 or 3 pellets) or single-option (1 pellet). Shifting single-option outcomes among weeks led to better discrimination, more robust preference and significant incentive contrast effects for the alternative outcome. Shifting multioptions altered choice components and led to dissociations among discrimination, preference, and reduced contrast effects. During extinction, all components were impacted with the greatest deficits during the shifting mixed-option outcome sessions. Results suggest choice behavior can be optimized for 1 component but suboptimal for others depending upon the complexity of alterations in outcome value between options.

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This article was published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology in April 14, 2016. The article can be found online at the APA PsycNet website:

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Journal of Comparative Psychology


American Psychology Association


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