The speed-accuracy tradeoff: history, physiology, methodology, and behavior

Front Neurosci. 2014 Jun 11;8:150. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2014.00150. eCollection 2014.


There are few behavioral effects as ubiquitous as the speed-accuracy tradeoff (SAT). From insects to rodents to primates, the tendency for decision speed to covary with decision accuracy seems an inescapable property of choice behavior. Recently, the SAT has received renewed interest, as neuroscience approaches begin to uncover its neural underpinnings and computational models are compelled to incorporate it as a necessary benchmark. The present work provides a comprehensive overview of SAT. First, I trace its history as a tractable behavioral phenomenon and the role it has played in shaping mathematical descriptions of the decision process. Second, I present a "users guide" of SAT methodology, including a critical review of common experimental manipulations and analysis techniques and a treatment of the typical behavioral patterns that emerge when SAT is manipulated directly. Finally, I review applications of this methodology in several domains.

Keywords: decision-making; speed-accuracy tradeoff.

Publication types

  • Review