Confidence Predictions Affect Performance Confidence and Neural Preparation in Perceptual Decision Making

Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 11;9(1):4031. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-40681-9.


Decisions are usually accompanied by a feeling of being wrong or right - a subjective confidence estimate. But what information is this confidence estimate based on, and what is confidence used for? To answer these questions, research has largely focused on confidence regarding current or past decisions, for example identifying how characteristics of the stimulus affect confidence, how confidence can be used as an internally generated feedback signal, and how communicating confidence can affect group decisions. Here, we report two studies which implemented a novel metacognitive measure: predictions of confidence for future perceptual decisions. Using computational modeling of behaviour and EEG, we established that experience-based confidence predictions are one source of information that affects how confident we are in future decision-making, and that learned confidence-expectations affect neural preparation for future decisions. Results from both studies show that participants develop precise confidence predictions informed by past confidence experience. Notably, our results also show that confidence predictions affect performance confidence rated after a decision is made; this finding supports the proposal that confidence judgments are based on multiple sources of information, including expectations. We found strong support for this link in neural correlates of stimulus preparation and processing. EEG measures of preparatory neural activity (contingent negative variation; CNV) and evidence accumulation (centro-parietal positivity; CPP) show that predicted confidence affects neural preparation for stimulus processing, supporting the proposal that one purpose of confidence judgments may be to learn about performance for future encounters and prepare accordingly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Metacognition / physiology*