Vigor of movements and the cost of time in decision making

Jennie E.S. Choi, Pavan A. Vaswani, Reza Shadmehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


If we assume that the purpose of a movement is to acquire a rewarding state, the duration of the movement carries a cost because it delays acquisition of reward. For some people, passage of time carries a greater cost, as evidenced by how long they are willing to wait for a rewarding outcome. These steep discounters are considered impulsive. Is there a relationship between cost of time in decision making and cost of time in control of movements? Our theory predicts that people who are more impulsive should in general move faster than subjects who are less impulsive. To test our idea, we considered elementary voluntary movements: saccades of the eye. We found that in humans, saccadic vigor, assessed using velocity as a function of amplitude, was as much as 50% greater in one subject than another; that is, some people consistently moved their eyes with high vigor. We measured the cost of time in a decision-making task in which the same subjects were given a choice between smaller odds of success immediately and better odds if they waited. We measured how long they were willing to wait to obtain the better odds and how much they increased their wait period after they failed. We found that people that exhibited greater vigor in their movements tended to have a steep temporal discount function, as evidenced by their waiting patterns in the decision-making task. The cost of time may be shared between decision making and motor control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1212-1223
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014


  • Impulsivity
  • Motor control
  • Reward
  • Saccade
  • Temporal discounting
  • Vigor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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