Humans and animals value the opportunity to choose by preferring alternatives that offer more rather than fewer choices. This preference for choice may arise not only from an increased probability of obtaining preferred outcomes but also from the freedom it provides. We used human neuroimaging to investigate the neural basis of the preference for choice as well as for the items that could be chosen. In each trial, participants chose between two options, a monetary amount option and a "choice option." The latter consisted of a number that corresponded to the number of everyday items participants would subsequently be able to choose from. We found that the opportunity to choose from a larger number of items was equivalent to greater amounts of money, indicating that participants valued having more choice; moreover, participants varied in the degree to which they valued having the opportunity to choose, with some valuing it more than the increased probability of obtaining preferred items. Neural activations in the mid striatum increased with the value of the opportunity to choose. The same region also coded the value of the items. Conversely, activation in the dorsolateral striatum was not related to the value of the items but was elevated when participants were offered more choices, particularly in those participants who overvalued the opportunity to choose. These data suggest a functional dissociation of value representations within the striatum, with general representations in mid striatum and specific representations of the value of freedom provided by the opportunity to choose in dorsolateral striatum.
- Consumer psychology
- Valuebased decision making