Led into Temptation? Rewarding Brand Logos Bias the Neural Encoding of Incidental Economic Decisions
Human decision-making is driven by subjective values assigned to alternative choice options. These valuations are based on reward cues. It is unknown, however, whether complex reward cues, such as brand logos, may bias the neural encoding of subjective value in unrelated decisions. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we subliminally presented brand logos preceding intertemporal choices. We demonstrated that priming biased participants' preferences towards more immediate rewards in the subsequent temporal discounting task. This was associated with modulations of the neural encoding of subjective values of choice options in a network of brain regions, including but not restricted to medial prefrontal cortex. Our findings demonstrate the general susceptibility of the human decision making system to apparently incidental contextual information. We conclude that the brain incorporates seemingly unrelated value information that modifies decision making outside the decision-maker's awareness.