According to many theories of motivation and decision making, the principal driver of human behavior is the valuation of actions. Action value is computed as the difference between stimulus value (the benefits and costs inherent in the stimulus that is the target of the action) and action costs (the effort required to perform the action). In the present work, we propose that action costs are crucially influenced by the readiness to perform a given action. We define action readiness as the ease with which an action may be initiated given the preaction launch state of the individual. An action that has been frequently or recently performed or rehearsed has a high level of action readiness, whereas an action that has not been frequently or recently performed or rehearsed has a low level of action readiness. By our account, if action readiness levels are high for a given action, decreased action costs may result in action even when the stimulus value is relatively low. Conversely, if action readiness levels are low for a given action, even action costs that appear negligible can dominate positive stimulus values, resulting in seemingly puzzling instances of inaction. We develop and test these ideas in 3 studies across 233 participants using an image-viewing decision context and a logistic prediction model.
- Action readiness
- Decision making