Representing the Effect of Multiple Alternatives and Information Strength on Confidence in Perceptual Decision Tasks
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Confidence in perceptual decisions is a baseline for quantitatively measuring metacognitive processes in psychology. Most researchers limit the stimulus to two choices, assuming that the mental process summarizes the likely accuracy of all choices to determine confidence in the decision. The purpose of this study was to determine whether multiple alternative choices, with varying levels of information strength for each choice, follow the same mental statistics as similar two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) tasks. If the differences between information strengths for each of the multiple choices had a direct effect on confidence, then presenting higher and lower differences of information strength between the correct choice and the incorrect choice would result in corresponding higher and lower confidence ratings. Participants were shown multicolor clouds of dots made up of three colors, with one dot color (dominant) being more abundant than the others. Participants decided which color was the dominant color for each cloud, then indicated their confidence in that decision. The overall information strength, dominant-secondary strength difference, and dominant-tertiary strength difference all had significant main effects on both confidence and accuracy. The overall strength had the largest effect size for confidence, with more information strength resulting in higher confidence ratings. The dominant-secondary strength difference had the largest effect size for accuracy, with a larger difference between dominant and secondary color strengths resulting in higher accuracy rates. Further investigation on how the brain defines relevant stimuli in an environment and processing of multiple choices must be conducted before developing computational models for confidence.