Expecting Social Punishment Facilitates Control Over A Decision Under Uncertainty By Recruiting Medial Prefrontal Cortex.
ABSTRACT: In many decision-making situations, suboptimal choices are increased by uncertainty. However, when wrong choices could lead to social punishment, such as blame, people might try to improve their performance by minimizing suboptimal choices which could be achieved by increasing the subjective cost of errors, thereby globally reducing decision noise or reducing an uncertainty-induced component of decision noise. In this functional MRI study, 46 participants performed a choice task in which the probability of a correct choice with a given cue and the conditional probability of blame feedback (by making an incorrect choice) changed continuously. By comparing computational models of behaviour, we found that participants optimized their performance by preferentially reducing a component of decision noise associated with uncertainty. Simultaneously, expecting blame significantly deteriorated participants' mood. Model-based fMRI analyses and dynamic causal modeling indicates that the optimization mechanism based on the expectation of being blamed would be controlled by a neural circuit centered on the right medial prefrontal cortex. These results show novel behavioural and neural mechanisms regarding how humans optimize uncertain decisions under the expectation of being blamed that negatively influences mood.
Project description:The weight with which a specific outcome feature contributes to preference quantifies a person's 'taste' for that feature. However, far from being fixed personality characteristics, tastes are plastic. They tend to align, for example, with those of others even if such conformity is not rewarded. We hypothesised that people can be uncertain about their tastes. Personal tastes are therefore uncertain beliefs. People can thus learn about them by considering evidence, such as the preferences of relevant others, and then performing Bayesian updating. If a person's choice variability reflects uncertainty, as in random-preference models, then a signature of Bayesian updating is that the degree of taste change should correlate with that person's choice variability. Temporal discounting coefficients are an important example of taste-for patience. These coefficients quantify impulsivity, have good psychometric properties and can change upon observing others' choices. We examined discounting preferences in a novel, large community study of 14-24 year olds. We assessed discounting behaviour, including decision variability, before and after participants observed another person's choices. We found good evidence for taste uncertainty and for Bayesian taste updating. First, participants displayed decision variability which was better accounted for by a random-taste than by a response-noise model. Second, apparent taste shifts were well described by a Bayesian model taking into account taste uncertainty and the relevance of social information. Our findings have important neuroscientific, clinical and developmental significance.
Project description:While judging their sensory environments, decision-makers seem to use the uncertainty about their choices to guide adjustments of their subsequent behaviour. One possible source of these behavioural adjustments is arousal: decision uncertainty might drive the brain's arousal systems, which control global brain state and might thereby shape subsequent decision-making. Here, we measure pupil diameter, a proxy for central arousal state, in human observers performing a perceptual choice task of varying difficulty. Pupil dilation, after choice but before external feedback, reflects three hallmark signatures of decision uncertainty derived from a computational model. This increase in pupil-linked arousal boosts observers' tendency to alternate their choice on the subsequent trial. We conclude that decision uncertainty drives rapid changes in pupil-linked arousal state, which shape the serial correlation structure of ongoing choice behaviour.
Project description:Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) produces profound morbidity. Difficulties with decision-making and intolerance of uncertainty are prominent clinical features in many patients. The nature and etiology of these deficits are poorly understood. We used a well-validated choice task, grounded in behavioral economic theory, to investigate differences in valuation and value-based choice during decision making under uncertainty in 20 unmedicated participants with OCD and 20 matched healthy controls. Participants' choices were used to assess individual decision-making characteristics. OCD participants did not differ from healthy controls in how they valued uncertain options when outcome probabilities were known (risk) but were more likely than healthy controls to avoid uncertain options when these probabilities were imprecisely specified (ambiguity). Compared to healthy controls, individuals with OCD were less consistent in their choices and less able to identify options that should be clearly preferable. These abnormalities correlated with symptom severity. These results suggest that value-based choices during decision-making are abnormal in OCD. Individuals with OCD show elevated intolerance of uncertainty, but only when outcome probabilities are themselves uncertain. Future research focused on the neural valuation network, which is implicated in value-based computations, may provide new neurocognitive insights into the pathophysiology of OCD. Deficits in decision-making processes may represent a target for therapeutic intervention.
Project description:A number of studies have shown that pupil size increases transiently during effortful decisions. These decision-related changes in pupil size are mediated by central neuromodulatory systems, which also influence the internal state of brain regions engaged in decision making. It has been proposed that pupil-linked neuromodulatory systems are activated by the termination of decision processes, and, consequently, that these systems primarily affect the postdecisional brain state. Here, we present pupil results that run contrary to this proposal, suggesting an important intradecisional role. We measured pupil size while subjects formed protracted decisions about the presence or absence ("yes" vs. "no") of a visual contrast signal embedded in dynamic noise. Linear systems analysis revealed that the pupil was significantly driven by a sustained input throughout the course of the decision formation. This sustained component was larger than the transient component during the final choice (indicated by button press). The overall amplitude of pupil dilation during decision formation was bigger before yes than no choices, irrespective of the physical presence of the target signal. Remarkably, the magnitude of this pupil choice effect (yes > no) reflected the individual criterion: it was strongest in conservative subjects choosing yes against their bias. We conclude that the central neuromodulatory systems controlling pupil size are continuously engaged during decision formation in a way that reveals how the upcoming choice relates to the decision maker's attitude. Changes in brain state seem to interact with biased decision making in the face of uncertainty.
Project description:Sleep deprivation alters decision making; however, it is unclear what specific cognitive processes are modified to drive altered choices. In this manuscript, we examined how one night of total sleep deprivation (TSD) alters economic decision making. We specifically examined changes in uncertainty preferences dissociably from changes in the strategy with which participants engage with presented choice information. With high test-retest reliability, we show that TSD does not alter uncertainty preferences or loss aversion. Rather, TSD alters the information the participants rely upon to make their choices. Utilizing a choice strategy metric which contrasts the influence of maximizing and satisficing information on choice behavior, we find that TSD alters the relative reliance on maximizing information and satisficing information, in the gains domain. This alteration is the result of participants both decreasing their reliance on cognitively-complex maximizing information and a concomitant increase in the use of readily-available satisficing information. TSD did not result in a decrease in overall information use in either domain. These results show that sleep deprivation alters decision making by altering the informational strategies that participants employ, without altering their preferences.
Project description:Uncertainty is ubiquitous in cognitive processing. In this study, we aim to investigate the ability agents possess to track and report the noise inherent in their mental operations, often in the form of confidence judgments. Here, we argue that humans can use uncertainty inherent in their representations of value beliefs to arbitrate between exploration and exploitation. Such uncertainty is reflected in explicit confidence judgments. Using a novel variant of a multi-armed bandit paradigm, we studied how beliefs were formed and how uncertainty in the encoding of these value beliefs (belief confidence) evolved over time. We found that people used uncertainty to arbitrate between exploration and exploitation, reflected in a higher tendency toward exploration when their confidence in their value representations was low. We furthermore found that value uncertainty can be linked to frameworks of metacognition in decision making in two ways. First, belief confidence drives decision confidence, i.e. people's evaluation of their own choices. Second, individuals with higher metacognitive insight into their choices were also better at tracing the uncertainty in their environment. Together, these findings argue that such uncertainty representations play a key role in the context of cognitive control.
Project description:Both normative and many descriptive theories of decision making under risk are based on the notion that outcomes are weighted by their probability, with subsequent maximization of the (subjective) expected outcome. Numerous investigations from psychology, economics, and neuroscience have produced evidence consistent with this notion. However, this research has typically investigated choices involving relatively affect-poor, monetary outcomes. We compared choice in relatively affect-poor, monetary lottery problems with choice in relatively affect-rich medical decision problems. Computational modeling of behavioral data and model-based neuroimaging analyses provide converging evidence for substantial differences in the respective decision mechanisms. Relative to affect-poor choices, affect-rich choices yielded a more strongly curved probability weighting function of cumulative prospect theory, thus signaling that the psychological impact of probabilities is strongly diminished for affect-rich outcomes. Examining task-dependent brain activation, we identified a region-by-condition interaction indicating qualitative differences of activation between affect-rich and affect-poor choices. Moreover, brain activation in regions that were more active during affect-poor choices (e.g., the supramarginal gyrus) correlated with individual trial-by-trial decision weights, indicating that these regions reflect processing of probabilities. Formal reverse inference Neurosynth meta-analyses suggested that whereas affect-poor choices seem to be based on brain mechanisms for calculative processes, affect-rich choices are driven by the representation of outcomes' emotional value and autobiographical memories associated with them. These results provide evidence that the traditional notion of expectation maximization may not apply in the context of outcomes laden with affective responses, and that understanding the brain mechanisms of decision making requires the domain of the decision to be taken into account.
Project description: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.
Project description:Nudges have gained popularity as a behavioral change tool that aims to facilitate the selection of the sensible choice option by altering the way choice options are presented. Although nudges are designed to facilitate these choices without interfering with people's prior preferences, both the relation between individuals' prior preferences and nudge effectiveness, as well as the notion that nudges 'facilitate' decision-making have received little empirical scrutiny. Two studies examine the hypothesis that a social proof nudge is particularly effective when people have no clear prior preference, either because people are indifferent (in a color-categorization task; Study 1, N = 255) or because people experience a choice conflict (making shopping decisions about meat products; Study 2, N = 97). Both studies employed a social proof nudge to steer participants' choices. The potential facilitating effect of the nudge was tested using a mouse-tracker paradigm that implicitly assessed experienced uncertainty during decision-making. Results showed that the nudge was effective in steering participants' decisions; the facilitation effect (i.e., reduced uncertainty regarding the decision) was only observed for conflicting preferences, but not under indifference. A better understanding of when and how nudges can influence individuals' behavior may help in deciding whether nudges are an appropriate policy tool for changing particular undesirable behavior.
Project description:Attending to a stimulus enhances the sensitivity of perceptual decisions. However, it remains unclear how perceptual sensitivity varies according to whether a feature is expected or unexpected. Here, observers made fine discrimination judgments about the orientation of visual gratings embedded in low spatial-frequency noise, and psychophysical reverse correlation was used to estimate decision 'kernels' that revealed how visual features influenced choices. Orthogonal cues alerted subjects to which of two spatial locations was likely to be probed (spatial attention cue) and which of two oriented gratings was likely to occur (feature expectation cue). When an expected (relative to unexpected) feature occurred, decision kernels shifted away from the category boundary, allowing observers to capitalize on more informative, "off-channel" stimulus features. By contrast, the spatial attention cue had a multiplicative influence on decision kernels, consistent with an increase in response gain. Feature expectation thus heightens sensitivity to the most informative visual features, independent of selective attention.