Choices change the temporal weighting of decision evidence

Bharath Chandra Talluri*, Anne E. Urai, Zohar Z. Bronfman, Noam Brezis, Konstantinos Tsetsos, Marius Usher, Tobias H. Donner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many decisions result from the accumulation of decision-relevant information (evidence) over time. Even when maximizing decision accuracy requires weighting all the evidence equally, decision-makers often give stronger weight to evidence occurring early or late in the evidence stream. Here, we show changes in such temporal biases within participants as a function of intermittent judgments about parts of the evidence stream. Human participants performed a decision task that required a continuous estimation of the mean evidence at the end of the stream. The evidence was either perceptual (noisy random dot motion) or symbolic (variable sequences of numbers). Participants also reported a categorical judgment of the preceding evidence half-way through the stream in one condition or executed an evidence-independent motor response in another condition. The relative impact of early versus late evidence on the final estimation flipped between these two conditions. In particular, participants' sensitivity to late evidence after the intermittent judgment, but not the simple motor response, was decreased. Both the intermittent response as well as the final estimation reports were accompanied by nonluminance-mediated increases of pupil diameter. These pupil dilations were bigger during intermittent judgments than simple motor responses and bigger during estimation when the late evidence was consistent than inconsistent with the initial judgment. In sum, decisions activate pupil-linked arousal systems and alter the temporal weighting of decision evidence. Our results are consistent with the idea that categorical choices in the face of uncertainty induce a change in the state of the neural circuits underlying decision-making. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The psychology and neuroscience of decision-making have extensively studied the accumulation of decision-relevant information toward a categorical choice. Much fewer studies have assessed the impact of a choice on the processing of subsequent information. Here, we show that intermittent choices during a protracted stream of input reduce the sensitivity to subsequent decision information and transiently boost arousal. Choices might trigger a state change in the neural machinery for decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1468-1481
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Arousal
  • Confirmation bias
  • Decision-making
  • Human
  • Psychophysics


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