"Decomposing the motivation to exert mental effort"
Most tasks demand cognitive control, but exerting this control is effortful. How do we balance these two considerations to decide how to invest our cognitive effort? I will discuss work in our lab that has sought to address this question, by modeling the cost-benefit analysis that determines how much and what kinds of control a person is willing to exert in a given situation. I will describe how these models have helped guide recent behavioral and neuroimaging research into the component processes that determine one's mopsychtivation to exert mental effort. This model-based approach has allowed us to formalize specific hypotheses regarding why mental effort allocation varies across contexts, individuals, and clinical populations, and to disentangle different sources of such variability (e.g., differences between one's ability vs. desire to engage control processes). I will end by discussing ongoing research that seeks to tackle one major source of cognitive effort costs: decision-making itself. Collectively, this work has laid the foundation for further cross-disciplinary research into the mechanisms that drive effortful thoughts and actions, and towards a better understanding of when and why they fail to do so.