On how seeking for the lowest-cost action is not always what happens in reality

Michael Inzlicht, Amitai Shenhav, Christopher Y. Olivola, The Effort Paradox: Effort Is Both Costly and Valued, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 22, Issue 4, 2018, Pages 337-349, DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2018.01.007.

According to prominent models in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and economics, effort (be it physical or mental) is costly: when given a choice, humans and non-human animals alike tend to avoid effort. Here, we suggest that the opposite is also true and review extensive evidence that effort can also add value. Not only can the same outcomes be more rewarding if we apply more (not less) effort, sometimes we select options precisely because they require effort. Given the increasing recognition of effort’s role in motivation, cognitive control, and value-based decision-making, considering this neglected side of effort will not only improve formal computational models, but also provide clues about how to promote sustained mental effort across time.

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