Task-level value affects trial-level reward processing.
Hassall CD., Hunt LT., Holroyd CB.
Despite disagreement about how anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) supports decision making, a recent hypothesis suggests that activity in this region is best understood in the context of a task or series of tasks. One important task-level variable is average reward because it is both a known driver of effortful behaviour and an important determiner of the tasks in which we choose to engage. Here we asked how average task value affects reward-related ACC activity. To answer this question, we measured a reward-related signal said to be generated in ACC called the reward positivity (RewP) while participants gambled in three tasks of differing average value. The RewP was reduced in the high-value task, an effect that was not explainable by either reward magnitude or outcome expectancy. This result suggests that ACC does not evaluate outcomes and cues in isolation, but in the context of the value of the current task.