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Title: The impact of motivational congruence on cognition
Author: Koster, R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5359 1190
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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Motivational components of responses in an environment can be congruent if the stimuli features of the presented cues, the actions that are required and the outcomes that are obtained by those actions are in alignment. For example, some cues or outcomes can favour responding by action over inaction even if this response is in conflict with instrumental learning. This congruence can be mirrored by overlapping neural activation patterns, e.g. previous work has shown that interactions of rewarding outcomes and approach actions are mediated by dopaminergic function in the basal-ganglia. In this thesis I present four experiments that investigate how modes of action or inaction affect different domains of cognition in relation to congruence with cues and outcomes. In the first experiment, I used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how motivational states created by congruence or incongruence between action and outcome valence (reward or avoiding loss) affect the persistence of episodic memories. The results highlight a benefit of acting for reward rather than inaction for reward. This benefit is mediated by basal-ganglia function. The second experiment investigated how approach actions are modulated by stimulus novelty of the cue instructing the action. Stimulus novelty enhances approach actions when the delay between the cue and action requirement is short. This implicates novelty in impulsive actions even in the absence of reward. The third experiment investigated how active and passive expressions of choice affect choice and the dynamics of revaluation. Choice is biased towards action regardless of stimulus valence, but the valence interacts with choice expression affecting revaluation. This suggests a basis for suboptimal choice and judgement sensitive to choice architecture and stimulus valence. The fourth experiment used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how beliefs about active creation inflate valuation in the human brain. The amygdala, representing subjective belief about creation, interacts with the caudate nucleus, representing item value. This shows that an interaction between reward and action can also be present in more abstract notions of reward and action, such as value judgements and creative construction, respectively, and is dependent on explicit belief. I argue the effects of motivational congruence between cues, actions and outcomes reveal hard-wired, Pavlovian control in decision making as instrumental contingencies are tightly controlled. These Pavlovian biases are discussed in the framework of different cognitive functions being governed by similar neural circuits resulting in hard-wired response tendencies. In conclusion, the work presented in this thesis demonstrates how action and inaction can benefit or bias memory and decision making. This is a possible source for suboptimal behaviour like impulsive choice and has a wide range of implications for decision making and mental health. The experimental work especially relates to topic in behavioural economics such as ‘defaults’ which exploit the difference between active and passive choice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available