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Confidence in value-based choice


Decisions are never perfect, with confidence in one's choices fluctuating over time. How subjective confidence and valuation of choice options interact at the level of brain and behavior is unknown. Using a dynamic model of the decision process, we show that confidence reflects the evolution of a decision variable over time, explaining the observed relation between confidence, value, accuracy and reaction time. As predicted by our dynamic model, we show that a functional magnetic resonance imaging signal in human ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) reflects both value comparison and confidence in the value comparison process. Crucially, individuals varied in how they related confidence to accuracy, allowing us to show that this introspective ability is predicted by a measure of functional connectivity between vmPFC and rostrolateral prefrontal cortex. Our findings provide a mechanistic link between noise in value comparison and metacognitive awareness of choice, enabling us both to want and to express knowledge of what we want.

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Figure 1: Task and behavioral results.
Figure 2: Computational model.
Figure 3: vmPFC.
Figure 4: RLPFC.
Figure 5: Connectivity analysis.
Figure 6: Schematic of network relating confidence to subjective report.


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We thank T. Fitzgerald, D. Kumaran and T. Sharot for comments on a previous draft of this manuscript, and T. Behrens and N. Daw for discussions. This work was supported by a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award, 098362/Z/12/Z to R.J.D.; S.M.F. and B.D.M. are supported by Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowships (B.D.M., 082674/Z/07/Z; S.M.F., WT096185). The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging is supported by core funding from the Wellcome Trust, 091593/Z/10/Z.

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Authors and Affiliations



B.D.M. and S.M.F. conceived and designed the study. B.D.M., N.G. and S.M.F. developed stimuli and gathered and analyzed behavioral and fMRI data. B.D.M., S.M.F. and R.J.D. interpreted the data and wrote the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Benedetto De Martino or Stephen M Fleming.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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De Martino, B., Fleming, S., Garrett, N. et al. Confidence in value-based choice. Nat Neurosci 16, 105–110 (2013).

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