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Emerging evidence suggests that the long-established distinction between habit-based and goal-directed decision-making mechanisms can also be sustained in humans. Although the habit-based system has been extensively studied in humans, the goal-directed system is less well characterized. This review brings to that task the distinction between conceptual and nonconceptual representational mechanisms. Conceptual representations are structured out of semantic constituents (concepts)--the use of which requires an ability to perform some language-like syntactic processing. Decision making--as investigated by neuroscience and psychology--is normally studied in isolation from questions about concepts as studied in philosophy and cognitive psychology. We ask what role concepts play in the "goal-directed" decision-making system. We argue that one fruitful way of studying this system in humans is to investigate the extent to which it deploys conceptual representations.

Original publication




Journal article


Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci

Publication Date





418 - 428


Animals, Concept Formation, Decision Making, Goals, Habits, Humans, Models, Psychological, Rats, Semantics