Motivation and Cognitive Control: Going Beyond Monetary Incentives

  • Marie K. Krug
  • Todd S. Braver


This chapter examines the topic of motivation–cognition interactions from a cognitive neuroscience perspective. More specifically, we consider the use of primary rewards (e.g., liquids) as motivational incentives during cognitive task performance, in comparison to monetary rewards, which are the traditional form of incentive used in most human experimental studies. We review behavioral and neuroscience literature suggesting that motivationally based performance enhancement is not ubiquitous, but when present, appears to reflect modulation of cognitive control processes supported by frontoparietal cortex via interactions with subcortical reward-processing circuits. Further, we compare and contrasts findings from studies using monetary rewards and those employing primary rewards, suggesting possible reasons for similarities and differences, as well as future directions to address unanswered questions. Finally, and most importantly, we discuss the advantages of using primary rewards as incentives to further explore motivation–cognition interactions. We present pilot data as a sample case study to demonstrate how primary rewards can offer methodological, theoretical, and experimental leverage. We conclude by presenting an indepth discussion of questions (and corresponding experimental paradigms) that can be most profitably investigated through the use of primary rewards, with the goal of providing a more comprehensive characterization of the nature of motivation–cognition interactions in the human brain.


Cognitive Control Ventral Striatum Monetary Incentive Monetary Reward Temporal Discount 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWashington University in Saint LouisSaint LouisUSA

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