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Jason Samaha, Missy Switzky, Bradley R. Postle; Confidence boosts serial dependence in orientation estimation. Journal of Vision 2019;19(4):25. doi: 10.1167/19.4.25.
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In the absence of external feedback, a decision maker must rely on a subjective estimate of their decision accuracy in order to appropriately guide behavior. Normative models of perceptual decision-making relate subjective estimates of internal signal quality (e.g., confidence) directly to the internal signal quality itself, thereby making it unknowable whether the subjective estimate or the underlying signal is what drives behavior. We constructed stimuli that dissociated the human observer's performance on a visual estimation task from their subjective estimates of confidence in their performance, thus violating normative principles. To understand whether confidence influences future decision-making, we examined serial dependence in observer's responses, a phenomenon whereby the estimate of a stimulus on the current trial can be biased toward the stimulus from the previous trial. We found that when decisions were made with high confidence, they conferred stronger biases upon the following trial, suggesting that confidence may enhance serial dependence. Critically, this finding was true also when confidence was experimentally dissociated from task performance, indicating that subjective confidence, independent of signal quality, can amplify serial dependence. These findings demonstrate an effect of confidence on future behavior, independent of task performance, and suggest that perceptual decisions incorporate recent history in an uncertainty-weighted manner, but where the uncertainty carried forward is a subjectively estimated and possibly suboptimal readout of objective sensory uncertainty.
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