Gain control explains the effect of distraction in human perceptual, cognitive, and economic decision making.
Li V., Michael E., Balaguer J., Herce Castañón S., Summerfield C.
When making decisions, humans are often distracted by irrelevant information. Distraction has a different impact on perceptual, cognitive, and value-guided choices, giving rise to well-described behavioral phenomena such as the tilt illusion, conflict adaptation, or economic decoy effects. However, a single, unified model that can account for all these phenomena has yet to emerge. Here, we offer one such account, based on adaptive gain control, and additionally show that it successfully predicts a range of counterintuitive new behavioral phenomena on variants of a classic cognitive paradigm, the Eriksen flanker task. We also report that blood oxygen level-dependent signals in a dorsal network prominently including the anterior cingulate cortex index a gain-modulated decision variable predicted by the model. This work unifies the study of distraction across perceptual, cognitive, and economic domains.