Episodic memories predict adaptive Value-Based Decision-Making

Vishnu P. Murty, Oriel FeldmanHall, Lindsay E. Hunter, Elizabeth A. Phelps, Lila Davachi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research illustrates that memory can guide Value-Based Decision-Making. For example, previous work has implicated both working memory and procedural memory (i.e., reinforcement learning) in guiding choice. However, other types of memories, such as episodic memory, may also influence Decision-Making. Here we test the role for episodic Memory-Specifically item versus associative Memory-In supporting Value-Based choice. Participants completed a task where they first learned the value associated with trial unique lotteries. After a short delay, they completed a Decision-Making task where they could choose to reengage with previously encountered lotteries, or new never before seen lotteries. Finally, participants completed a surprise memory test for the lotteries and their associated values. Results indicate that participants chose to reengage more often with lotteries that resulted in high versus low rewards. Critically, participants not only formed detailed, associative memories for the reward values coupled with individual lotteries, but also exhibited adaptive Decision-Making only when they had intact associative memory. We further found that the relationship between adaptive choice and associative memory generalized to more complex, ecologically valid choice behavior, such as social decisionmaking. However, individuals more strongly encode experiences of social Violations-Such as being treated unfairly, suggesting a bias for how individuals form associative memories within social contexts. Together, these findings provide an important integration of episodic memory and Decision-Making literatures to better understand key mechanisms supporting adaptive behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)548-558
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Associative memory
  • Decision-Making
  • Dictator game
  • Episodic memory
  • Value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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