Human reward pursuit: From rudimentary to higher-level functions
SourceCurrent Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 3, (2012), pp. 194-199
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI AO
Current Directions in Psychological Science
SubjectWork, Health and Performance
Human reward pursuit is often found to be governed by conscious assessments of expected value and required effort. Yet research has also indicated that rewards are initially valuated and processed outside of awareness by rudimentary brain structures. Building on both of these findings, we propose a new framework for understanding human performance in the service of reward pursuit. We suggest that people initially process rewards unconsciously, which can boost effort and facilitate performance. Subsequently, people may process rewards more fully, which allows them to make strategic decisions on the basis of task conditions and to consciously reflect on the rewards. Intriguingly, these specific processes associated with full reward processing can cause its effects on performance to diverge from those of initial reward processing. In this article, we review recent research that supports this framework. Finally, we discuss how our framework may lead to a refined yet broadly applicable understanding of the human pursuit of rewards.
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