The speed and accuracy of perceptual decisions in a random-tone pitch task

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2013 Jul;75(5):1048-58. doi: 10.3758/s13414-013-0447-8.


Research in perceptual decision making is dominated by paradigms that tap the visual system, such as the random-dot motion (RDM) paradigm. In this study, we investigated whether the behavioral signature of perceptual decisions in the auditory domain is similar to those observed in the visual domain. We developed an auditory version of the RDM task, in which tones correspond to dots and pitch corresponds to motion (the random-tone pitch task, RTP). In this task, participants have to decide quickly whether the pitch of a "sound cloud" of tones is moving up or down. Stimulus strength and speed-accuracy trade-off were manipulated. To describe the relationship between stimulus strength and performance, we fitted the proportional-rate diffusion model to the data. The results showed a close coupling between stimulus strength and the speed and accuracy of perceptual decisions in both tasks. Additionally, we fitted the full drift diffusion model (DDM) to the data and showed that three of the four participants had similar speed-accuracy trade-offs in both tasks. However, for the RTP task, drift rates were larger and nondecision times slower, suggesting that some DDM parameters might be dependent on stimulus modality (drift rate and nondecision time), whereas others might not be (decision bound). The results illustrate that the RTP task is suitable for investigating the dynamics of auditory perceptual choices. Future studies using the task might help to investigate modality-specific effects on decision making at both the behavioral and neuronal levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Psychoacoustics*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Young Adult