In value-based decisions, there are frequently multiple attributes, such as cost, quality, or quantity, that contribute to the overall goodness of an option. Because one option may not be better in all attributes at once, the decision process should include a means of weighing relevant attributes. Most decision-making models solve this problem by computing an integrated value, or utility, for each option from a weighted combination of attributes. However, behavioral anomalies in decision-making, such as context effects, indicate that other attribute-specific computations might be taking place. Here, we tested whether rhesus macaques show evidence of attribute-specific processing in a value-based decision-making task. Monkeys made a series of decisions involving choice options comprising a sweetness and probability attribute. Each attribute was represented by a separate bar with one of two mappings between bar size and the magnitude of the attribute (i.e., bigger = better or bigger = worse). We found that translating across different mappings produced selective impairments in decision-making. Choices were less accurate and preferences were more variable when like attributes differed in mapping, suggesting that preventing monkeys from easily making direct attribute comparisons resulted in less accurate choice behavior. This was not the case when mappings of unalike attributes within the same option were different. Likewise, gaze patterns favored transitions between like attributes over transitions between unalike attributes of the same option, so that like attributes were sampled sequentially to support within-attribute comparisons. Together, these data demonstrate that value-based decisions rely, at least in part, on directly comparing like attributes of multiattribute options.

This content is only available as a PDF.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For a full description of the license, please visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode.