Vlaev, I., Chater, N., Stewart, N., & Brown, G. D. A. (in press). Does the brain calculate value? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15, 546--554.

How do people choose between options? At one extreme, the 'value-first' view is that the brain computes the value of different options and simply favours options with higher values. An intermediate position, taken by many psychological models of judgment and decision making, is that values are computed but that the resulting choices depend heavily on the context of available options. At the other extreme, the 'comparison-only' view argues that choice depends directly on comparisons, with or even without any intermediate computation of value. In this paper, we place past and current psychological and neuroscientific theories on this spectrum, and review empirical data that have led to an increasing focus on comparison rather than value as the driver of choice.