Mechanisms of choice behavior shift using cue-approach training

Akram Bakkour, Christina Leuker, Ashleigh M. Hover, Nathan Giles, Russell A. Poldrack, Tom Schonberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cue-approach training has been shown to effectively shift choices for snack food items by associating a cued button-press motor response to particular food items. Furthermore, attention was biased toward previously cued items, even when the cued item is not chosen for real consumption during a choice phase. However, the exact mechanism by which preferences shift during cue-approach training is not entirely clear. In three experiments, we shed light on the possible underlying mechanisms at play during this novel paradigm: (1) Uncued, wholly predictable motor responses paired with particular food items were not sufficient to elicit a preference shift; (2) Cueing motor responses early - concurrently with food item onset - and thus eliminating the need for heightened top-down attention to the food stimulus in preparation for a motor response also eliminated the shift in food preferences. This finding reinforces our hypothesis that heightened attention at behaviorally relevant points in time is key to changing choice behavior in the cue-approach task; (3) Crucially, indicating choice using eye movements rather than manual button presses preserves the effect, thus demonstrating that the shift in preferences is not governed by a learned motor response but more likely via modulation of subjective value in higher associative regions, consistent with previous neuroimaging results. Cue-approach training drives attention at behaviorally relevant points in time to modulate the subjective value of individual items, providing a mechanism for behavior change that does not rely on external reinforcement and that holds great promise for developing real world behavioral interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number421
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - 23 Mar 2016


  • Attention
  • Behavioral change
  • Cue-approach training
  • Eyetracking
  • Value-based decision making


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