Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 771–778 | Cite as

Reward-driven modulation of adaptive control: How prospective monetary gains interact with unpredictable control demands

  • Hans Marien
  • Henk Aarts
  • Ruud Custers
Original Paper


Shifting attention is an effortful control process and incurs a cost on the cognitive system. Previous research suggests that rewards, such as monetary gains, will selectively enhance the ability to shift attention when this demand for control is explicitly cued. Here, we hypothesized that prospective monetary gains will selectively enhance the ability to shift attention even when control demand is unpredictable and not cued beforehand in a modality shift paradigm. In two experiments we found that target detection was indeed facilitated by reward signals when an unpredictable shift of attention was required. In these crossmodal trials the target stimulus was preceded by an unpredictive stimulus directing attention to the opposite modality (i.e., visual–auditory or auditory–visual). Importantly, there was no reward effect in ipsimodal trials (i.e., visual–visual or auditory–auditory). Furthermore, the absence of the latter effect could not be explained in terms of physical limits in speed of responding. Potential motivation of monetary rewards thus selectively translates into motivational intensity when control (i.e., switching) is demanded in unpredictable ways.


Motivation Adaptive control Monetary reward Resource conservation Modality 


  1. Bijleveld, E., Custers, R., & Aarts, H. (2009). The unconscious eye-opener: Pupil size reveals strategic recruitment of resources upon presentation of subliminal reward cues. Psychological Science, 20, 1313–1315. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02443.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bijleveld, E., Custers, R., & Aarts, H. (2010). Unconscious reward cues increase invested effort, but do not change speed–accuracy tradeoffs. Cognition, 115, 330–335. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.12.012.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bijleveld, E., Custers, R., & Aarts, H. (2012). Human reward pursuit from rudimentary to higher-level functions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 194–199. doi: 10.1177/0963721412438463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Botvinick, M. M., Braver, T. S., Barch, D. M., Carter, C. S., & Cohen, J. D. (2001). Conflict monitoring and cognitive control. Psychological Review, 108, 624–652. doi: 10.1037//0033-295X.108.3.624.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Braver, T. S. (2012). The variable nature of cognitive control: A dual mechanisms framework. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 106–113. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2011.12.010.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brehm, J. W., & Self, E. A. (1989). The intensity of motivation. Annual Review of Psychology, 40, 109–131. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.40.1.109.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carter, C. S., Braver, T. S., Barch, D. M., Botvinick, M. M., Noll, D., & Cohen, J. D. (1998). Anterior cingulate cortex, error detection, and the online monitoring of performance. Science, 280, 747–749. doi: 10.1126/science.280.5364.747.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chiew, K. S., & Braver, T. S. (2011). Positive affect versus reward: Emotional and motivational influences on cognitive control. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 279. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00279.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Critchley, H. D., Corfield, D. R., Chandler, M. P., Mathias, C. J., & Dolan, R. J. (2000). Cerebral correlates of autonomic cardiovascular arousal: A functional neuroimaging investigation in humans. Journal of Physiology, 523, 259–270. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7793.2000.t01-1-00259.x.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dolan, R. J. (2002). Emotion, cognition, and behavior. Science, 298, 1191–1194. doi: 10.1126/science.1076358.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Engelmann, J. B., Damaraju, E., Padmala, S., & Pessoa, L. (2009). Combined effects of attention and motivation on visual task performance: Transient and sustained motivational effects. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 3, 4. doi: 10.3389/neuro.09.004.2009.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eubanks, L., Wright, R. A., & Williams, B. J. (2002). Reward influence on the heart: Cardiovascular response as a function of incentive value at five levels of task demand. Motivation and Emotion, 26, 139–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gendolla, G. H. E., Wright, R. A., & Richter, M. (2011). Effort intensity: Some insights from the cardiovascular system. In R. Ryan (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of motivation (pp. 420–440). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195399820.013.0024.
  14. Kahneman, D. (1973). Attention and effort. Englewoods Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  15. Kouneiher, F., Charron, S., & Koechlin, E. (2009). Motivation and cognitive control in the human prefrontal cortex. Nature Neuroscience, 12, 939–945. doi: 10.1038/nn.2321.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Marien, H., Aarts, H., & Custers, R. (2013). Adaptive control of human action: The role of outcome representations and reward signals. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 602. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00602.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McDaniel, M. A., LaMontagne, P., Beck, S. M., Scullin, M. K., & Braver, T. S. (2013). Dissociable neural routes to successful prospective memory. Psychological Science, 24, 1791–1800. doi: 10.1177/0956797613481233.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Miyake, A., & Shah, P. (1999). Models of working memory: Mechanisms of active maintenance and executive control. New York: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139174909.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Navon, D. (1984). Resources—A theoretical soup stone? Psychological Review, 91, 216–234. doi: 10.1037//0033-295X.91.2.216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Navon, D., & Gopher, D. (1979). On the economy of the human-processing system. Psychological Review, 86, 214–255. doi: 10.1037//0033-295X.86.3.214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pashler, H. (1998). The psychology of attention. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  22. Pessiglione, M., Schmidt, L., Draganski, B., Kalisch, R., Lau, H., Dolan, R. J., et al. (2007). How the brain translates money into force: A neuroimaging study of subliminal motivation. Science, 316, 904–906. doi: 10.1126/science.1140459.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pessoa, L. (2009). How do emotion and motivation direct executive control? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13, 160–166. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.01.006.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pessoa, L., & Engelmann, J. B. (2010). Embedding reward signals into perception and cognition. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 4, 17. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2010.00017.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rodway, P. (2005). The modality shift effect and the effectiveness of warning signals in different modalities. Acta Psychologica, 120, 199–226. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2005.05.002.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Shen, Y. J., & Chun, M. M. (2011). Increases in rewards promote flexible behavior. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 73, 938–952. doi: 10.3758/s13414-010-0065-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Treadway, M. T., Buckholtz, J. W., Cowan, R. L., Woodward, N. D., Li, R., Ansari, M. S., et al. (2012). Dopaminergic mechanisms of individual differences in human effort-based decision-making. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 6170–6176. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6459-11.2012.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Treadway, M. T., Buckholtz, J. W., Schwartzman, A. N., Lambert, W. E., & Zald, D. H. (2009). Worth the “EEfRT”? The effort expenditure for rewards task as an objective measure of motivation and anhedonia. PLoS One, 4, Article e6598. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006598.
  29. Turatto, M., Benso, F., Galfano, G., & Umiltà, C. (2002). Nonspatial attentional shifts between audition and vision. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 28, 628–639. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.28.3.628.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Watanabe, M. (2007). Role of anticipated reward in cognitive behavioral control. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 17, 213–219. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2007.02.007.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wright, R. A. (2008). Refining the prediction of effort: Brehm’s distinction between potential motivation and motivation intensity. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 682–701. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2008.00093.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations