Dissociable Mechanisms Govern When and How Strongly Reward Attributes Affect Decisions

Nat Hum Behav. 2020 Jun 1. doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-0893-y. Online ahead of print.


Theories and computational models of decision-making usually focus on how strongly different attributes are weighted in choice, for example, as a function of their importance or salience to the decision-maker. However, when different attributes affect the decision process is a question that has received far less attention. Here, we investigated whether the timing of attribute consideration has a unique influence on decision-making by using a time-varying drift diffusion model and data from four separate experiments. Experimental manipulations of attention and neural activity demonstrated that we can dissociate the processes that determine the relative weighting strength and timing of attribute consideration. Thus, the processes determining either the weighting strengths or the timing of attributes in decision-making can independently adapt to changes in the environment or goals. Quantifying these separate influences of timing and weighting on choice improves our understanding and predictions of individual differences in decision behaviour.