A preferential role for ventromedial prefrontal cortex in assessing "the value of the whole" in multiattribute object evaluation

Gabriel Pelletier*, Nadav Aridan, Lesley K. Fellows, Tom Schonberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Everyday decision-making commonly involves assigning values to complex objects with multiple value-relevant attributes. Drawing on object recognition theories, we hypothesized two routes to multiattribute evaluation: Assessing the value of the whole object based on holistic attribute configuration or summing individual attribute values. In two samples of healthy human male and female participants undergoing eye tracking and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while evaluating novel pseudo objects, we found evidence for both forms of evaluation. Fixations to and transitions between attributes differed systematically when the value of pseudo objects was associated with individual attributes or attribute configurations. Ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and perirhinal cortex were engaged when configural processing was required. These results converge with our recent findings that individuals with vmPFC lesions were impaired in decisions requiring configural evaluation but not when evaluating the sum of the parts. This suggests that multiattribute decision-making engages distinct evaluation mechanisms relying on partially dissociable neural substrates, depending on the relationship between attributes and value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5056-5068
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number23
StatePublished - 9 Jun 2021


FundersFunder number
Zavalkoff Family Foundation
Canadian Institutes of Health ResearchMOP-11920
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of CanadaRGPIN-2016-06066
Israel Science Foundation1798/15, 2004/15
Tel Aviv University
Council for Higher Education


    • Decision-making
    • Eye movements
    • FMRI
    • Object recognition
    • Prefrontal cortex
    • Reward


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