Automatic integration of confidence in the brain valuation signal

Nat Neurosci. 2015 Aug;18(8):1159-67. doi: 10.1038/nn.4064. Epub 2015 Jul 20.


A key process in decision-making is estimating the value of possible outcomes. Growing evidence suggests that different types of values are automatically encoded in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC). Here we extend this idea by suggesting that any overt judgment is accompanied by a second-order valuation (a confidence estimate), which is also automatically incorporated in VMPFC activity. In accordance with the predictions of our normative model of rating tasks, two behavioral experiments showed that confidence levels were quadratically related to first-order judgments (age, value or probability ratings). The analysis of three functional magnetic resonance imaging data sets using similar rating tasks confirmed that the quadratic extension of first-order ratings (our proxy for confidence) was encoded in VMPFC activity, even if no confidence judgment was required of the participants. Such an automatic aggregation of value and confidence in a same brain region might provide insight into many distortions of judgment and choice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Young Adult