Reward and punisher experience alter rodent decision-making in a judgement bias task

Vikki Neville*, Jessica KIng, Iain D Gilchrist, Peter Dayan, Elizabeth S Paul, Michael Mendl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


The influence of affective states on decision-making is likely to be complex. Negative states resulting from experience of punishing events have been hypothesised to generate enhanced expectations of future punishment and ‘pessimistic’/risk-averse decisions. However, they may also influence how decision-outcomes are valued. Such influences may further depend on whether decisions at hand are germane to the rewards or punishers that induced the affective state in the first place. Here we attempt to dissect these influences by presenting either many or few rewards or punishers of different types (sucrose vs air-puff; 50kHz vs 22kHz ultrasonic vocalisations) to rats, and investigating their subsequent decisions in a judgement bias task that employed sucrose and air-puff as decision outcomes. Rats that received many sucrose pellets prior to testing were more risk-averse than those receiving many air-puffs. Ultrasonic vocalisations did not alter decision-making. Computational analysis revealed a higher weighting of punishers relative to rewards (in agreement with findings from a separate behavioural task) and a bias towards the risk-averse response following pre-test sucrose compared to pre-test air-puff. Thus, in this study reward and punisher manipulation of affective state appeared to alter decision-making by influencing both expectation and valuation of decision-outcomes in a domain-specific way.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11839 (2020)
Number of pages14
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2020


  • Animal behaviour
  • Computational neuroscience
  • Emotion
  • Motivation
  • Reward


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