Wagers for work: Decomposing the costs of cognitive effort

Sarah L. Master, Clayton E. Curtis, Peter Dayan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some aspects of cognition are more taxing than others. Accordingly, many people will avoid cognitively demanding tasks in favor of simpler alternatives. Which components of these tasks are costly, and how much, remains unknown. Here, we use a novel task design in which subjects request wages for completing cognitive tasks and a computational modeling procedure that decomposes their wages into the costs driving them. Using working memory as a test case, our approach revealed that gating new information into memory and protecting against interference are costly. Critically, other factors, like memory load, appeared less costly. Other key factors which may drive effort costs, such as error avoidance, had minimal influence on wage requests. Our approach is sensitive to individual differences, and could be used in psychiatric populations to understand the true underlying nature of apparent cognitive deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1012060
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number4 April
StatePublished - Apr 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Wagers for work: Decomposing the costs of cognitive effort'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this