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Journal Article

Does openness/intellect predict sensitivity to the reward value of information?


Fayn,  Kirill
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Smillie, L. D., Bennett, D., Tan, N. P., Sutcliffe, K., Fayn, K., Bode, S., et al. (2021). Does openness/intellect predict sensitivity to the reward value of information? Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 21, 993-1009. doi:10.3758/s13415-021-00900-1.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-0933-4
A recent theory proposes that the personality trait openness/intellect is underpinned by differential sensitivity to the reward value

of information. This theory draws on evidence that midbrain dopamine neurons respond to unpredicted information gain,

mirroring their responses to unpredicted primary rewards. Using a choice task modelled on this seminal work (Experiment 1,

N = 139, 69% female), we examined the relation between openness/intellect and willingness to pay for non-instrumental

information (i.e., information with no secondary utility). We also assessed whether any such relation was moderated by the

dopamine D2 receptor antagonist sulpiride (Experiment 2, N = 164, 100% male). Unexpectedly, most measures of openness/

intellect were unrelated to costly information preference in both experiments, and some predicted a decreased willingness to

incur a cost for information. In Experiment 2, this cost-dependent association between openness/intellect and information

valuation appeared in the placebo condition but not under sulpiride. In addition, participants were more willing to pay for

moderately costly information under sulpiride compared to placebo, consistent with a dopaminergic basis to information valuation.

Potential refinements to the information valuation theory of openness/intellect are discussed in the light of these and other

emerging findings.