Context-dependent urgency influences speed-accuracy trade-offs in decision-making and movement execution

J Neurosci. 2014 Dec 3;34(49):16442-54. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0162-14.2014.


Speed-accuracy tradeoffs (SATs) exist in both decision-making and movement control, and are generally studied separately. However, in natural behavior animals are free to adjust the time invested in deciding and moving so as to maximize their reward rate. Here, we investigate whether shared mechanisms exist for SAT adjustment in both decisions and actions. Two monkeys performed a reach decision task in which they watched 15 tokens jump, one every 200 ms, from a central circle to one of two peripheral targets, and had to guess which target would ultimately receive the majority of tokens. The monkeys could decide at any time, and once a target was reached, the remaining token movements accelerated to either 50 ms ("fast" block) or 150 ms ("slow" block). Decisions were generally earlier and less accurate in fast than slow blocks, and in both blocks, the criterion of accuracy decreased over time within each trial. This could be explained by a simple model in which sensory information is combined with a linearly growing urgency signal. Remarkably, the duration of the reaching movements produced after the decision decreased over time in a similar block-dependent manner as the criterion of accuracy estimated by the model. This suggests that SATs for deciding and acting are influenced by a shared urgency/vigor signal. Consistent with this, we observed that the vigor of saccades performed during the decision process was higher in fast than in slow blocks, suggesting the influence of a context-dependent global arousal.

Keywords: decision-making; monkey; reaching; reward rate; saccades; urgency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology