Rafael Polania (ETH Zürich) will give a guest talk on the 25th of September with the title “Illusions of Subjective Value Assignments”. It will take place at 9.30 am in the WEV building (room H 326).

Abstract: Preference-based decisions are essential for survival, for instance when deciding what we should (not) eat. Despite their importance, choices based on preferences are surprisingly variable and can appear irrational in ways that have defied mechanistic explanations. Here we propose that subjective valuation results from an inference process that accounts for the information structure of values in the environment and that maximizes information in value representations in line with demands imposed by limited coding resources. This strategy explains subjective value variability, preference-based choices and predicts a new preference illusion during subjective value reports that we validate with empirical data. Interestingly, the same strategy also explains the level of confidence associated with these reports. Our results imply that preference-based decisions reflect information-maximizing transmission and statistically optimal decoding of subjective values by a limited-capacity system. These findings provide a unified account of how humans perceive and valuate the environment to optimally guide behavior.