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Ever-so-slight delay improves decision-making accuracy
Date:3/7/2014

distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. Hence, a task is made more difficult if irrelevant informationa distractorinterferes with the processing of the target. Distractors are present all the time; in this case, it might be in the form of traffic lights regulating traffic in other lanes. Though the brain is able to enhance relevant information and filter out distractions, these mechanisms take time. If the decision process starts while the brain is still processing irrelevant information, errors can occur.

Studies have shown that response accuracy can be improved by prolonging the decision process, to allow the brain time to collect more information. Because accuracy is increased at the cost of longer reaction times, this process is referred to as the "speed-accuracy trade-off." The researchers thought that a more effective way to reduce errors might be to delay the decision process so that it starts out with better information.

The research team conducted two experiments to test this hypothesis. In the first, subjects were shown what looked like a swarm of randomly moving dots (the target stimulus) on a computer monitor and were asked to judge whether the overall motion was to the left or right. A second and brighter set of moving dots (the distractor) appeared simultaneously in the same location, obscuring the motion of the target. When the distractor dots moved in the same direction as the target dots, subjects performed with near-perfect accuracy, but when the distractor dots moved in the opposite direction, the error rate increased. The subjects were asked to perform the task either as quickly or as accurately as possible; they were free to respond at any time after the onset of the stimulus.

The second experiment was similar to the first, except that the subjects also heard regular clicks, indicating when they had to respond. The time allowed for viewing the dots varied between 17 and 500 milliseconds. This condi
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Contact: Karin Eskenazi
ket2116@columbia.edu
212-342-0508
Columbia University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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