Strength and weight: The determinants of choice and confidence

Cognition. 2016 Jul;152:170-180. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2016.04.008. Epub 2016 Apr 16.


Evidence for different hypotheses is often treated as a singular construct, but it can be dissociated into two parts: its strength, the proportion of pieces of information favoring one hypothesis; and its weight, the total number of pieces of information available. However, cognitive and neural models of evidence accumulation often make a proportional representation assumption, implying that people take these two factors into account equally when making their decisions and judgments. We examine this assumption by directly manipulating the number of samples and the proportion favoring either of two alternatives in dynamic decision making and judgment tasks. The results suggest that people tend to over-emphasize the strength of evidence relative to its weight in both an optional-stopping decision task and a probability judgment task. In a drift-diffusion model, this is reflected by drift rates that are determined foremost by strength with a smaller influence of weight. This result challenges the proportional representation assumption made by existing models of judgment and decision-making, and calls into question modeling evidence accumulation as a Bayesian belief updating process.

Keywords: Confidence; Decision-making; Diffusion model; Evidence accumulation; Strength; Weight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Choice Behavior
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Young Adult