UCL Discovery
UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Explicit representation of confidence informs future value-based decisions

Folke, T; Jacobsen, C; Fleming, SM; De Martino, B; (2016) Explicit representation of confidence informs future value-based decisions. Nature Human Behaviour , 1 , Article 0002. 10.1038/s41562-016-0002. Green open access

[img]
Preview
Text
De Martino_Explicit representation of confidence informs future_.pdf - Accepted version

Download (1MB) | Preview

Abstract

Humans can reflect on decisions and report variable levels of confidence. But why maintain an explicit representation of confidence for choices that have already been made and therefore cannot be undone? Here we show that an explicit representation of confidence is harnessed for subsequent changes of mind. Specifically, when confidence is low, participants are more likely to change their minds when the same choice is presented again, an effect that is most pronounced in participants with greater fidelity in their confidence reports. Furthermore, we show that choices reported with high confidence follow a more consistent pattern (fewer transitivity violations). Finally, by tracking participants’ eye movements, we demonstrate that lower-level gaze dynamics can track uncertainty but do not directly impact changes of mind. These results suggest that an explicit and accurate representation of confidence has a positive impact on the quality of future value-based decisions. As we navigate through life, we are constantly faced with choices that require us to assign and compare the values of different options or actions. Some of these value-based choices seem relatively straightforward (‘what should I eat for lunch?’) and others less so (‘which job offer should I take?’). No matter how simple or complex these choices are, they are often accompanied by a sense of confidence in having made the right choice. Recent work has shown that it is possible to behaviourally and computationally dissociate a value estimate (‘how much do I like something?’) from internal fluctuations in confidence (‘how sure am I?’). For example, at a behavioural level it has been shown that confidence shares only a limited amount of variance with value and instead reflects an assessment of choice accuracy1. This relation between value and confidence is neatly accounted for computationally by assuming that confidence emerges from the dynamics of noisy accumulators in an evidence-accumulation framework1,​2,​3,​4. More recently, Lebreton and colleagues5 showed that confidence may be an inherent property of value estimation, sharing a quadratic relationship with a linear rating of value (see also Barron and colleagues6). But what is the function of confidence? Why maintain an explicit representation of confidence when a choice has already been made and therefore cannot be undone? According to one view, confidence can be thought of as a by-product of a stochastic accumulation process that is implemented in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex during value comparison. Research indicates the brain constructs an explicit representation of confidence that underpins verbal reports7,8. Studies suggest that the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex represents confidence in both value-based and perceptual decisions1,9,​10,​11. Explicit representations of confidence allow individuals to communicate the strength of their beliefs to others, facilitating group decisions12,13, but may play little role in one’s own decision process. An alternative view is that explicit representations of confidence are critical for guiding one’s own future behaviour14. Work in perceptual decision-making has revealed commonalities between mechanisms supporting confidence construction and error monitoring15,16, suggesting changes of mind may be informed by confidence4. However, whether confidence is harnessed over a longer timescale to guide future choices is unknown. We aim to test the hypothesis that an explicit (and well-tuned) representation of confidence in a recent choice can guide a decision maker’s choice when faced with the same (or a similar) decision again. To test this hypothesis we presented participants with the same set of choices more than once during the course of two experiments and tested which factors were associated with a change of mind. We then investigated how confidence related to the degree of internal consistency in their patterns of choice. Choice consistency can be quantified by measuring the degree of transitivity across choices. Here we introduced a novel method for tagging choices as conforming to or violating transitivity. Using this method we were able to show that explicit representations of confidence are associated with more consistent patterns of choice as a consequence of changes of mind. Finally, we directly contrasted the effect of explicit confidence reports with lower-level markers of uncertainty that we gathered using eye tracking, revealing that changes of mind were specifically associated with explicit reports of confidence.

Type: Article
Title: Explicit representation of confidence informs future value-based decisions
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41562-016-0002
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-016-0002
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2017 The Author(s). All rights reserved.
Keywords: Decision, Decision making
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1537493
Downloads since deposit
515Downloads
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item