The dynamics of choice among multiple alternatives. (English) Zbl 1139.91028

Summary: We consider neurally based models for decision-making in the presence of noisy incoming data. The two-alternative forced-choice task has been extensively studied, and in that case it is known that mutually inhibited leaky integrators in which leakage and inhibition balance can closely approximate a drift-diffusion process that is the continuum limit of the optimal sequential probability ratio test (SPRT). Here we study the performance of neural integrators in \(n\geq 2\) alternative choice tasks and relate them to a multihypothesis sequential probability ratio test (MSPRT) that is asymptotically optimal in the limit of vanishing error rates. While a simple race model can implement this ‘max-vs-next’ MSPRT, it requires an additional computational layer, while absolute threshold crossing tests do not require such a layer. Race models with absolute thresholds perform relatively poorly, but we show that a balanced leaky accumulator model with an absolute crossing criterion can approximate a ‘max-vs-ave’ test that is intermediate in performance between the absolute and max-vs-next tests. We consider free and fixed time response protocols, and show that the resulting mean reaction times under the former and decision times for fixed accuracy under the latter obey versions of Hick’s law in the low error rate range, and we interpret this in terms of information gained. Specifically, we derive relationships of the forms \(\log(n-1)\), \(\log(n)\), or \(\log(n+1)\) depending on error rates, signal-to-noise ratio, and the test itself. We focus on linearized models, but also consider nonlinear effects of neural activities (firing rates) that are bounded below and show how they modify Hick’s law.


91E45 Measurement and performance in psychology
62L10 Sequential statistical analysis
62M45 Neural nets and related approaches to inference from stochastic processes
92B20 Neural networks for/in biological studies, artificial life and related topics
Full Text: DOI


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