Neural correlates of confidence during decision formation in a perceptual judgment task

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When we make a decision, we also estimate the probability that our choice is correct or accurate. This probability estimate is termed our degree of decision confidence. Recent work has reported event-related potential (ERP) correlates of confidence both during decision formation (the centro-parietal positivity component; CPP) and after a decision has been made (the error positivity component; Pe). However, there are several measurement confounds that complicate the interpretation of these findings. More recent studies that overcome these issues have so far produced conflicting results. To better characterise the ERP correlates of confidence we presented participants with a comparative brightness judgment task while recording electroencephalography. Participants judged which of two flickering squares (varying in luminance over time) was brighter on average. Participants then gave confidence ratings ranging from “surely incorrect” to “surely correct”. To elicit a range of confidence ratings we manipulated both the mean luminance difference between the brighter and darker squares (relative evidence) and the overall luminance of both squares (absolute evidence). We found larger CPP amplitudes in trials with higher confidence ratings. This association was not simply a by-product of differences in stimulus discriminability (which covaries with confidence) across trials. We did not identify post-decisional ERP correlates of confidence, except when they were artificially produced by pre-response ERP baselines. These results provide further evidence for neural correlates of processes that inform confidence judgments during decision formation.

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