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Adaptive History Biases Result from Confidence-Weighted Accumulation of past Choices.


ABSTRACT: Perceptual decision-making is biased by previous events, including the history of preceding choices: observers tend to repeat (or alternate) their judgments of the sensory environment more often than expected by chance. Computational models postulate that these so-called choice history biases result from the accumulation of internal decision signals across trials. Here, we provide psychophysical evidence for such a mechanism and its adaptive utility. Male and female human observers performed different variants of a challenging visual motion discrimination task near psychophysical threshold. In a first experiment, we decoupled categorical perceptual choices and motor responses on a trial-by-trial basis. Choice history bias was explained by previous perceptual choices, not motor responses, highlighting the importance of internal decision signals in action-independent formats. In a second experiment, observers performed the task in stimulus environments containing different levels of autocorrelation and providing no external feedback about choice correctness. Despite performing under overall high levels of uncertainty, observers adjusted both the strength and the sign of their choice history biases to these environments. When stimulus sequences were dominated by either repetitions or alternations, the individual degree of this adjustment of history bias was about as good a predictor of individual performance as individual perceptual sensitivity. The history bias adjustment scaled with two proxies for observers' confidence about their previous choices (accuracy and reaction time). Together, our results are consistent with the idea that action-independent, confidence-modulated decision variables are accumulated across choices in a flexible manner that depends on decision-makers' model of their environment.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Decisions based on sensory input are often influenced by the history of one's preceding choices, manifesting as a bias to systematically repeat (or alternate) choices. We here provide support for the idea that such choice history biases arise from the context-dependent accumulation of a quantity referred to as the decision variable: the variable's sign dictates the choice and its magnitude the confidence about choice correctness. We show that choices are accumulated in an action-independent format and a context-dependent manner, weighted by the confidence about their correctness. This confidence-weighted accumulation of choices enables decision-makers to flexibly adjust their behavior to different sensory environments. The bias adjustment can be as important for optimizing performance as one's sensitivity to the momentary sensory input.

SUBMITTER: Braun A 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5858589 | BioStudies | 2018-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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