Decision conflict occurs when people feel uncertain as to which option to choose from a set of similarly attractive (or unattractive) options, with many studies demonstrating that this conflict can lead to suboptimal decision making. In this article, we investigate the neurobiological underpinnings of decision conflict, in particular, the involvement of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Previous studies have implicated the ACC in conflict monitoring during perceptual tasks, but there is considerable controversy as to whether the ACC actually indexes conflict related to choice, or merely conflict related to selection of competing motor responses. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we dissociate the decision and response phases of a decision task, and show that the ACC does indeed index conflict at the decision stage. Furthermore, we show that it does so for a complex decision task, one that requires the integration of beliefs and preferences and not just perceptual judgments.
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