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Breaking Deadlocks: Reward Probability and Spontaneous Preference Shape Voluntary Decisions and Electrophysiological Signals in Humans

Wojciech Zajkowski Orcid Logo, Dominik Krzemiński, Jacopo Barone, Lisa H. Evans, Jiaxiang Zhang Orcid Logo

Computational Brain and Behavior, Volume: 4, Issue: 2, Pages: 191 - 212

Swansea University Author: Jiaxiang Zhang Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Choosing between equally valued options is a common conundrum, for which classical decision theories predicted a prolonged response time (RT). This contrasts with the notion that an optimal decision maker in a stable environment should make fast and random choices, as the outcomes are indifferent. H...

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Published in: Computational Brain and Behavior
ISSN: 2522-0861 2522-087X
Published: Springer Science and Business Media LLC 2021
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa61251
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Abstract: Choosing between equally valued options is a common conundrum, for which classical decision theories predicted a prolonged response time (RT). This contrasts with the notion that an optimal decision maker in a stable environment should make fast and random choices, as the outcomes are indifferent. Here, we characterize the neurocognitive processes underlying such voluntary decisions by integrating cognitive modelling of behavioral responses and EEG recordings in a probabilistic reward task. Human participants performed binary choices between pairs of unambiguous cues associated with identical reward probabilities at different levels. Higher reward probability accelerated RT, and participants chose one cue faster and more frequent over the other at each probability level. The behavioral effects on RT persisted in simple reactions to single cues. By using hierarchical Bayesian parameter estimation for an accumulator model, we showed that the probability and preference effects were independently associated with changes in the speed of evidence accumulation, but not with visual encoding or motor execution latencies. Time-resolved MVPA of EEG-evoked responses identified significant representations of reward certainty and preference as early as 120 ms after stimulus onset, with spatial relevance patterns maximal in middle central and parietal electrodes. Furthermore, EEG-informed computational modelling showed that the rate of change between N100 and P300 event-related potentials modulated accumulation rates on a trial-by-trial basis. Our findings suggest that reward probability and spontaneous preference collectively shape voluntary decisions between equal options, providing a mechanism to prevent indecision or random behavior.
Keywords: Decision making; Reward probability; Preference; EEG; Cognitive modelling
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering
Funders: This study was supported by a European Research Council starting grant (716321). WZ was supported by a PhD studentship from Cardiff University School of Psychology. DK was supported by a PhD studentship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (1982622).
Issue: 2
Start Page: 191
End Page: 212