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In many perceptual and cognitive decision-making problems, humans sample multiple noisy information sources serially, and integrate the sampled information to make an overall decision. We derive the optimal decision procedure for two-alternative choice tasks in which the different options are sampled one at a time, sources vary in the quality of the information they provide, and the available time is fixed. To maximize accuracy, the optimal observer allocates time to sampling different information sources in proportion to their noise levels. We tested human observers in a corresponding perceptual decision-making task. Observers compared the direction of two random dot motion patterns that were triggered only when fixated. Observers allocated more time to the noisier pattern, in a manner that correlated with their sensory uncertainty about the direction of the patterns. There were several differences between the optimal observer predictions and human behaviour. These differences point to a number of other factors, beyond the quality of the currently available sources of information, that influences the sampling strategy.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pone.0078993

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS One

Publication Date

2013

Volume

8

Keywords

Adolescent, Adult, Algorithms, Choice Behavior, Decision Making, Female, Humans, Male, Models, Psychological, Perception, Photic Stimulation, Reaction Time, Visual Perception, Young Adult