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Breaking deadlocks: reward probability and spontaneous preference shape voluntary decisions and electrophysiological signals in humans

Zajkowski, Wojciech, Krzeminski, Dominik, Barone, Jacopo, Evans, Lisa ORCID: and Zhang, Jiaxiang ORCID: 2021. Breaking deadlocks: reward probability and spontaneous preference shape voluntary decisions and electrophysiological signals in humans. Computational Brain & Behavior 4 , pp. 191-212. 10.1007/s42113-020-00096-6

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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.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.
Publisher: Springer
ISSN: 2522-0861
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 5 August 2020
Date of Acceptance: 3 August 2020
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2023 00:41

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