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Low and variable correlation between reaction time costs and accuracy costs explained by accumulation models: Meta-analysis and simulations

Hedge, Craig ORCID:, Powell, Georgina ORCID:, Bompas, Aline ORCID:, Vivian-Griffiths, Solveiga and Sumner, Petroc ORCID: 2018. Low and variable correlation between reaction time costs and accuracy costs explained by accumulation models: Meta-analysis and simulations. Psychological Bulletin 144 (11) , pp. 1200-1227. 10.1037/bul0000164

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The underpinning assumption of much research on cognitive individual differences (or group differences) is that task performance indexes cognitive ability in that domain. In many tasks performance is measured by differences (costs) between conditions, which are widely assumed to index a psychological process of interest rather than extraneous factors such as speed-accuracy trade-offs (e.g. Stroop, Implicit Association Task, lexical decision, antisaccade, Simon, Navon, flanker and Task Switching). Relatedly, RT costs or error costs are interpreted similarly and used interchangeably in the literature. All of this assumes a strong correlation between RT-costs and error-costs from the same psychological effect. We conducted a meta-analysis to test this, with 114 effects across a range of well-known tasks. Counterintuitively, we found a general pattern of weak, and often no, association between RT and error costs (mean R=.17, range -.45 to .78). This general problem is accounted for by the theoretical framework of evidence accumulation models, which capture individual differences in (at least) two distinct ways. Differences affecting accumulation rate produce positive correlation. But this is cancelled out if individuals also differ in response threshold, which produces negative correlations. In the models, subtractions between conditions do not isolate processing costs from caution. To demonstrate the explanatory power of synthesising the traditional subtraction method within a broader decision model framework, we confirm two predictions with new data. Thus, using error costs or RT costs is more than a pragmatic choice; the decision carries theoretical consequence that can be understood through the accumulation model framework.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Additional Information: This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Com- mons Attribution License ( ), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any me- dium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Publisher: American Psychological Association
ISSN: 0033-2909
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 5 June 2018
Date of Acceptance: 1 June 2018
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2023 07:19

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