The key element in our decision-making that serves to both gauging errors and revising our approach is confidence, suggested a new study. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers insights into the hierarchical nature of how we make choices over extended periods of time, ranging from medical diagnoses and treatment to the strategies we use to invest our money.
“Overall, we found that the brain uses confidence to gauge errors and revise decision strategy. Specifically, the confidence in our initial assessments influences how we revisit them,” said Roozbeh Kiani, Assistant Professor, New York University.
“What is challenging about comprehending, why we make certain choices over long periods is to determine the true causes of the outcomes of our decisions,” explains Braden Purcell, researcher, New York University. To do so, the researchers devised an experiment in which subjects judged the net motion direction of multiple dots on a computer screen.
The subjects’ judgments were recorded by gauging their eye movement toward one of several targets on the screen. Researchers discovered that when confident about motion direction, subjects attributed negative feedbacks to a change in the environment and quickly explored new targets.
When the subjects were less confident, they counted negative feedbacks as partial evidence for an environment change but withheld exploring a new target until the sum of evidence which is confidence on error trials – reached a threshold, revealed the study.
According to the researchers, optimal decision-makers should adjust the threshold for switching strategy based on the volatility of the environment. They showed that subjects were quicker to explore new targets when changes in the environment happened more frequently.