The cognitive and neural basis of option generation and subsequent choice

S. Kaiser, J. Simon, A. Kalis, T.S. Schweizer, P.N. Tobler, A. Mojzisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Decision-making research has thoroughly investigated how people choose from a set of externally provided options. However, in ill-structured real-world environments, possible options for action are not defined by the situation but have to be generated by the agent. Here, we apply behavioral analysis (Study 1) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (Study 2) to investigate option generation and subsequent choice. For this purpose, we employ a new experimental task that requires participants to generate options for simple real-world scenarios and to subsequently decide among the generated options. Correlational analysis with a cognitive test battery suggests that retrieval of options from long-term memory is a relevant process during option generation. The results of the fMRI study demonstrate that option generation in simple real-world scenarios recruits the anterior prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, we show that choice behavior and its neural correlates differ between self-generated and externally provided options. Specifically, choice between self-generated options is associated with stronger recruitment of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. This impact of option generation on subsequent choice underlines the need for an expanded model of decision making to accommodate choice between self-generated options.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)814-829
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


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