Sequential Sampling Models in Cognitive Neuroscience: Advantages, Applications, and Extensions

Annu Rev Psychol. 2016:67:641-66. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033645. Epub 2015 Sep 17.


Sequential sampling models assume that people make speeded decisions by gradually accumulating noisy information until a threshold of evidence is reached. In cognitive science, one such model--the diffusion decision model--is now regularly used to decompose task performance into underlying processes such as the quality of information processing, response caution, and a priori bias. In the cognitive neurosciences, the diffusion decision model has recently been adopted as a quantitative tool to study the neural basis of decision making under time pressure. We present a selective overview of several recent applications and extensions of the diffusion decision model in the cognitive neurosciences.

Keywords: decision making; diffusion decision model; drift rate; information accumulation; response time; speed-accuracy trade-off.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Neuroscience*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Task Performance and Analysis