Choices in a key press decision-making task are more optimal after gaining both aiming and reward experience

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2020 Dec;73(12):2197-2216. doi: 10.1177/1747021820940620. Epub 2020 Jul 22.


When presented with two different target-penalty configurations of similar maximum expected gain (MEG), participants prefer aiming to configurations with more advantageous spatial, rather than more advantageous gain parameters-perhaps due to the motor system's inherent prioritisation of spatial information during movements with high accuracy demands such as aiming. To test this hypothesis, participants in the present studies chose between target-penalty configurations via key presses to reduce the importance of spatial parameters of the response and performance-related feedback. Configurations varied in spatial (target-penalty region overlap) and gain parameters (negative penalty values) and could have similar or different MEG. Choices were made without prior aiming experience (Experiment 1), after aiming experience provided information of movement variability (Experiment 2), or after aiming experience provided information of movement variability and outcome feedback (Experiment 3). Overall, configurations with advantageous spatial or gain parameters were chosen equally (Both-Similar condition) in all experiments. However, average behaviour at the group level was not reflective of the behaviour of most individual participants with three subgroups emerging: those with a value preference, distance preference, or no preference. In Experiments 1 and 2, these individual differences cannot be explained by MEG differences between configurations or participants' movement variability, but these variables predicted choice behaviour in Experiment 3. Further in the Both-Different condition, participants only selected the larger MEG configuration at a level above chance when both variability and outcome information were given prior to the key press task (Experiment 3). In sum, the data indicate that prioritisation of spatial information did not emerge at the group level when performing key presses and more optimal behaviour emerged when information regarding movement variability and outcome feedback were given.

Keywords: Decision making; individual differences; key press responses; optimality; performance-related feedback; statistical decision theory.

MeSH terms

  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Movement
  • Probability
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reward*