In humans and some other species perceptual decision-making is complemented by the ability to make confidence judgements about the certainty of sensory evidence. While both forms of decision process have been studied empirically, the precise relationship between them remains poorly understood. We performed an experiment that combined a perceptual decision-making task (identifying the category of a faint visual stimulus) with a confidence-judgement task (wagering on the accuracy of each perceptual decision). The visual stimulation paradigm required steady fixation, so we used eye-tracking to control for stray eye movements. Our data analyses revealed an unexpected and counterintuitive interaction between the steadiness of fixation (prior to and during stimulation), perceptual decision making, and post-decision wagering: greater variability in gaze direction during fixation was associated with significantly increased visual-perceptual sensitivity, but significantly decreased reliability of confidence judgements. The latter effect could not be explained by a simple change in overall confidence (i.e. a criterion artifact), but rather was tied to a change in the degree to which high wagers predicted correct decisions (i.e. the sensitivity of the confidence judgement). We found no evidence of a differential change in pupil diameter that could account for the effect and thus our results are consistent with fixational eye movements being the relevant covariate. However, we note that small changes in pupil diameter can sometimes cause artefactual fluctuations in measured gaze direction and this possibility could not be fully ruled out. In either case, our results suggest that perceptual decisions and confidence judgements can be processed independently and point toward a new avenue of research into the relationship between them.
Schurger A, Kim M-S, Cohen JD (2015) Paradoxical Interaction between Ocular Activity, Perception, and Decision Confidence at the Threshold of Vision. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0125278. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0125278
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