The time course of perceptual choice: The leaky, competing accumulator model

Marius Usher*, James L. McClelland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The time course of perceptual choice is discussed in a model of gradual, leaky, stochastic, and competitive information accumulation in nonlinear decision units. Special cases of the model match a classical diffusion process, but leakage and competition work together to address several challenges to existing diffusion, random walk, and accumulator models. The model accounts for data from choice tasks using both time-controlled (e.g., response signal) and standard reaction time paradigms and its adequacy compares favorably with other approaches. A new paradigm that controls the time of arrival of information supporting different choice alternatives provides further support. The model captures choice behavior regardless of the number of alternatives, accounting for the log-linear relation between reaction time and number of alternatives (Hick's law) and explains a complex pattern of visual and contextual priming in visual word identification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-592
Number of pages43
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2001
Externally publishedYes


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