Date of Award

Winter 12-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Additional Affiliations

Behavior, Brain, and Cognition

Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



It is unequivocal that a wide variety of incentives can motivate behavior. However, few studies have explicitly examined whether and how different incentives are integrated in terms of their motivational influence. The current study examines the combined effects of monetary and liquid incentives on cognitive processing, and whether appetitive and aversive incentives have distinct influences. We introduce a novel task paradigm, in which participants perform cued task-switching for monetary rewards that vary parametrically across trials, with liquid incentives serving as post-trial performance feedback. Critically, the symbolic meaning of the liquid was held constant (indicating successful reward attainment), while liquid valence was blocked. In the first experiment, monetary rewards combined additively with appetitive liquid feedback to improve subject task performance. Aversive liquid feedback counteracted monetary reward effects in low monetary reward trials, particularly in a subset of participants who tended to avoid responding under these conditions. Self-report motivation ratings predicted behavioral performance above and beyond experimental effects. A follow-up experiment replicated the predictive power of motivation ratings even when only appetitive liquids were use, suggesting that ratings reflect idiosyncratic subjective values of, rather than categorical differences between, the liquid incentives. Together, the findings indicate an integrative relationship between primary and secondary incentives and potentially dissociable influences in modulating motivational value, while informing hypotheses regarding candidate neural mechanisms.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Todd Braver

Committee Members

Ryan Bogdan, David Balota


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K70V8B2X

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