Caution in decision-making under time pressure is mediated by timing ability

Cogn Psychol. 2019 May;110:16-29. doi: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2019.01.002. Epub 2019 Feb 5.


The time available to inform decisions is often limited, for example because of a response deadline. In such circumstances, accurate knowledge of the amount of time available for a decision is crucial for optimal choice behavior. However, the relation between temporal cognition and decision-making under time pressure is poorly understood. Here, we test how the precision of the internal representation of time affects choice behavior when decision time is limited by a deadline. We show that participants with a precise internal representation of time respond more cautiously in decision-making. Furthermore, we provide an empirical test of theoretical accounts of decision-making that argue that it is optimal to commit to a decision based on increasingly less evidence as the deadline approaches (so-called 'collapsing decision bounds'). These theories entail that the speed of collapse of the decision bound should depend on the precision of the internal representation of the deadline. However, although we find evidence that participants collapse decision bounds, we found no relation between the amount of collapse and the internal representation of time.

Keywords: Decision-making; Interval timing; Response caution; Time pressure; Urgency.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Netherlands
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult