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Emotion plays a critical role in many contemporary accounts of decision making, but exactly what underlies its influence and how this is mediated in the brain remain far from clear. Here, we review behavioral studies that suggest that Pavlovian processes can exert an important influence over choice and may account for many effects that have traditionally been attributed to emotion. We illustrate how recent experiments cast light on the underlying structure of Pavlovian control and argue that generally this influence makes good computational sense. Corresponding neuroscientific data from both animals and humans implicate a central role for the amygdala through interactions with other brain areas. This yields a neurobiological account of emotion in which it may operate, often covertly, to optimize rather than corrupt economic choice.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





662 - 671


Wellcome Trust Centre for Imaging Neuroscience, University College London, 12 Queen Square, London WC1N3BG, UK.


Amygdala, Animals, Humans, Emotions, Conditioning, Classical, Decision Making