The influence of contextual factors on the subjective value of control.

Kainan S. Wang, Madhuri Kashyap, Mauricio R. Delgado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The propensity to perceive and exert control in our environment contributes to both our adaptive behavior and general well-being. Prior studies have shown that humans have an inherent behavioral bias toward control-conferring environments and that this bias translates into greater subjective affect and is protective of our well-being. As such, it is vital to understand contextual factors that can alter our preference for control. In our previous work, we demonstrated that the behavioral bias toward control can be captured experimentally as the subjective value of control using a novel Value of Control task. We adapted this task in two experiments to study whether one’s subjective value of control is (a) tied to overestimation of success probability or outcome magnitude (Experiment 1) and (b) affected by the contextual valence of a decision (e.g., gain, loss; Experiment 2). Using a within-subjects design (Experiment 1), we found that participants showed similar behavioral bias toward control regardless of whether probability or magnitude was manipulated, suggesting that the perception of control can increase both how much a reward is subjectively worth and the probability estimation for obtaining the given reward. Using a between-subjects design (Experiment 2), we showed that when the outcome was framed as a potential loss, participants significantly lowered their subjective value of control, suggesting that outcome valence plays a role in shaping how much perceived control influences our behavior. Collectively, these findings offer further insight into the malleability of an individual’s perception of control and drive to perform control-seeking behaviors. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)881-891
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


  • decision making
  • outcome valence
  • perceived control
  • reward
  • subjective value


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