Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

People are alarmingly susceptible to manipulations that change both their expectations and experience of the value of goods. Recent studies in behavioral economics suggest such variability reflects more than mere caprice. People commonly judge options and prices in relative terms, rather than absolutely, and display strong sensitivity to exemplar and price anchors. We propose that these findings elucidate important principles about reward processing in the brain. In particular, relative valuation may be a natural consequence of adaptive coding of neuronal firing to optimise sensitivity across large ranges of value. Furthermore, the initial apparent arbitrariness of value may reflect the brains' attempts to optimally integrate diverse sources of value-relevant information in the face of perceived uncertainty. Recent findings in neuroscience support both accounts, and implicate regions in the orbitofrontal cortex, striatum, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex in the construction of value.

Original publication




Journal article


Current opinion in neurobiology

Publication Date





173 - 178


Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging and ELSE, UCL, London, UK.


Brain, Neostriatum, Cerebral Cortex, Neurons, Humans, Cognition, Reward, Form Perception, Judgment, Value of Life