Training diversity promotes absolute-valueguided choice

Levi Solomyak*, Paul B. Sharp, Eran Eldar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many decision-making studies have demonstrated that humans learn either expected values or relative preferences among choice options, yet little is known about what environmental conditions promote one strategy over the other. Here, we test the novel hypothesis that humans adapt the degree to which they form absolute values to the diversity of the learning environment. Since absolute values generalize better to new sets of options, we predicted that the more options a person learns about the more likely they would be to form absolute values. To test this, we designed a multi-day learning experiment comprising twenty learning sessions in which subjects chose among pairs of images each associated with a different probability of reward. We assessed the degree to which subjects formed absolute values and relative preferences by asking them to choose between images they learned about in separate sessions. We found that concurrently learning about more images within a session enhanced absolute-value, and suppressed relative-preference, learning. Conversely, cumulatively pitting each image against a larger number of other images across multiple sessions did not impact the form of learning. These results show that the way humans encode preferences is adapted to the diversity of experiences offered by the immediate learning context.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere1010664
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Solomyak et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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