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Opposing effects of reward and punishment on human vigor

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ABSTRACT

The vigor with which humans and animals engage in a task is often a determinant of the likelihood of the task’s success. An influential theoretical model suggests that the speed and rate at which responses are made should depend on the availability of rewards and punishments. While vigor facilitates the gathering of rewards in a bountiful environment, there is an incentive to slow down when punishments are forthcoming so as to decrease the rate of punishments, in conflict with the urge to perform fast to escape punishment. Previous experiments confirmed the former, leaving the latter unanswered. We tested the influence of punishment in an experiment involving economic incentives and contrasted this with reward related behavior on the same task. We found that behavior corresponded with the theoretical model; while instantaneous threat of punishment caused subjects to increase the vigor of their response, subjects’ response times would slow as the overall rate of punishment increased. We quantitatively show that this is in direct contrast to increases in vigor in the face of increased overall reward rates. These results highlight the opposed effects of rewards and punishments and provide further evidence for their roles in the variety of types of human decisions.

No MeSH data available.


Beta values (mean and standard errors) for different regressors, based on punishing subjects for being slow or incorrect. *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01, ***p < 0.001.
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f2: Beta values (mean and standard errors) for different regressors, based on punishing subjects for being slow or incorrect. *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01, ***p < 0.001.

Mentions: We fitted a linear regression model to the log-transformed reaction times, including fitting the learning rate for the averaged punishment (α = 0.314 (+ −0.398), median α = 0.130). Performing a 2-sided t-test across subjects on the beta values from the regression showed that while the effect of the Available Punishment (AP, see Fig. 2) was significantly negative, i.e. sped up response (p < 0.01, t = −3.24, dof = 21), the effect of the Averaged Punishment, (p), was significantly positive (p < 0.05, t = 2.28), implying that subjects would slow down as punishments accumulated. This was in accordance with the expectations from computational theory13 (see also Methods).


Opposing effects of reward and punishment on human vigor
Beta values (mean and standard errors) for different regressors, based on punishing subjects for being slow or incorrect. *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01, ***p < 0.001.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5304224&req=5

f2: Beta values (mean and standard errors) for different regressors, based on punishing subjects for being slow or incorrect. *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01, ***p < 0.001.
Mentions: We fitted a linear regression model to the log-transformed reaction times, including fitting the learning rate for the averaged punishment (α = 0.314 (+ −0.398), median α = 0.130). Performing a 2-sided t-test across subjects on the beta values from the regression showed that while the effect of the Available Punishment (AP, see Fig. 2) was significantly negative, i.e. sped up response (p < 0.01, t = −3.24, dof = 21), the effect of the Averaged Punishment, (p), was significantly positive (p < 0.05, t = 2.28), implying that subjects would slow down as punishments accumulated. This was in accordance with the expectations from computational theory13 (see also Methods).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

The vigor with which humans and animals engage in a task is often a determinant of the likelihood of the task&rsquo;s success. An influential theoretical model suggests that the speed and rate at which responses are made should depend on the availability of rewards and punishments. While vigor facilitates the gathering of rewards in a bountiful environment, there is an incentive to slow down when punishments are forthcoming so as to decrease the rate of punishments, in conflict with the urge to perform fast to escape punishment. Previous experiments confirmed the former, leaving the latter unanswered. We tested the influence of punishment in an experiment involving economic incentives and contrasted this with reward related behavior on the same task. We found that behavior corresponded with the theoretical model; while instantaneous threat of punishment caused subjects to increase the vigor of their response, subjects&rsquo; response times would slow as the overall rate of punishment increased. We quantitatively show that this is in direct contrast to increases in vigor in the face of increased overall reward rates. These results highlight the opposed effects of rewards and punishments and provide further evidence for their roles in the variety of types of human decisions.

No MeSH data available.