The influence of evidence volatility on choice, reaction time and confidence in a perceptual decision

Elife. 2016 Oct 27;5:e17688. doi: 10.7554/eLife.17688.


Many decisions are thought to arise via the accumulation of noisy evidence to a threshold or bound. In perception, the mechanism explains the effect of stimulus strength, characterized by signal-to-noise ratio, on decision speed, accuracy and confidence. It also makes intriguing predictions about the noise itself. An increase in noise should lead to faster decisions, reduced accuracy and, paradoxically, higher confidence. To test these predictions, we introduce a novel sensory manipulation that mimics the addition of unbiased noise to motion-selective regions of visual cortex, which we verified with neuronal recordings from macaque areas MT/MST. For both humans and monkeys, increasing the noise induced faster decisions and greater confidence over a range of stimuli for which accuracy was minimally impaired. The magnitude of the effects was in agreement with predictions of a bounded evidence accumulation model.

Keywords: bounded evidence accumulation models; decision making; evidence reliability; human; neuroscience; perceptual decisions; rhesus macaque.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Macaca
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Reaction Time*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology