Animal Cognition

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 671–684 | Cite as

Opposing pupil responses to offered and anticipated reward values

  • Tyler Cash-PadgettEmail author
  • Habiba Azab
  • Seng Bum Michael Yoo
  • Benjamin Y. Hayden
Original Paper


Previous studies have shown that the pupils dilate more in anticipation of larger rewards. This finding raises the possibility of a more general association between reward amount and pupil size. We tested this idea by characterizing macaque pupil responses to offered rewards during evaluation and comparison in a binary choice task. To control attention, we made use of a design in which offers occurred in sequence. By looking at pupil responses after choice but before reward, we confirmed the previously observed positive association between pupil size and anticipated reward values. Surprisingly, however, we find that pupil size is negatively correlated with the value of offered gambles before choice, during both evaluation and comparison stages of the task. These results demonstrate a functional distinction between offered and anticipated rewards and present evidence against a narrow version of the simulation hypothesis; the idea that we represent offers by reactivating states associated with anticipating them. They also suggest that pupil size is correlated with relative, not absolute, values of offers, suggestive of an accept–reject model of comparison.


Monkey Decision-making Pupil size Value 



This work is supported by a CAREER award from NSF (BCS1253576) and a R01 from NIH (DA038615) to BYH. We thank Meghan Castagno, Marc Mancarella and Caleb Strait for assistance with data collection, and the rest of the Hayden lab for valuable discussions.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Statement on the Welfare of Animals

All procedures performed in this study involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Rochester.

Supplementary material

10071_2018_1202_MOESM1_ESM.tif (7.9 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (TIF 8092 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neuroscience and Center for Magnetic Resonance ResearchUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Center for Visual Sciences, Center for the Origins of CognitionUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

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