Early evidence affects later decisions: why evidence accumulation is required to explain response time data

Psychon Bull Rev. 2014 Jun;21(3):777-84. doi: 10.3758/s13423-013-0551-8.


Models of decision making differ in how they treat early evidence as it recedes in time. Standard models, such as the drift diffusion model, assume that evidence is gradually accumulated until it reaches a boundary and a decision is initiated. One recent model, the urgency gating model, has proposed that decision making does not require the accumulation of evidence at all. Instead, accumulation could be replaced by a simple urgency factor that scales with time. To distinguish between these fundamentally different accounts of decision making, we performed an experiment in which we manipulated the presence, duration, and valence of early evidence. We simulated the associated response time and error rate predictions from the drift diffusion model and the urgency gating model, fitting the models to the empirical data. The drift diffusion model predicted that variations in the evidence presented early in the trial would affect decisions later in that same trial. The urgency gating model predicted that none of these variations would have any effect. The behavioral data showed clear effects of early evidence on the subsequent decisions, in a manner consistent with the drift diffusion model. Our results cannot be explained by the urgency gating model, and they provide support for an evidence accumulation account of perceptual decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Young Adult