Article | Published:

Automatic integration of confidence in the brain valuation signal

Nature Neuroscience volume 18, pages 11591167 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

A key process in decision-making is estimating the value of possible outcomes. Growing evidence suggests that different types of values are automatically encoded in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC). Here we extend this idea by suggesting that any overt judgment is accompanied by a second-order valuation (a confidence estimate), which is also automatically incorporated in VMPFC activity. In accordance with the predictions of our normative model of rating tasks, two behavioral experiments showed that confidence levels were quadratically related to first-order judgments (age, value or probability ratings). The analysis of three functional magnetic resonance imaging data sets using similar rating tasks confirmed that the quadratic extension of first-order ratings (our proxy for confidence) was encoded in VMPFC activity, even if no confidence judgment was required of the participants. Such an automatic aggregation of value and confidence in a same brain region might provide insight into many distortions of judgment and choice.

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Acknowledgements

The study was funded by a Starting Grant for the European Research Council (ERC-BioMotiv) and a Research Grant from the Schlumberger Foundation. M.L. received a PhD fellowship from the French Ministère de la Recherche and an Amsterdam Brain and Cognition Talent Grant from the University of Amsterdam. R.A. received a PhD fellowship from the Direction Générale de l'Armement and a grant from the Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale. This work also benefited from the program “Investissements d'avenir” (ANR-10-IAIHU-06). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Motivation, Brain and Behavior team, Centre de NeuroImagerie de Recherche (CENIR), Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière (ICM), Paris, France.

    • Maël Lebreton
    • , Raphaëlle Abitbol
    • , Jean Daunizeau
    •  & Mathias Pessiglione
  2. INSERM UMRS 975, CNRS UMR 7225, Université Pierre et Marie Curie UPMC-Paris 6 UMR 1127, Paris, France.

    • Maël Lebreton
    • , Raphaëlle Abitbol
    • , Jean Daunizeau
    •  & Mathias Pessiglione
  3. Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne, Université Paris 1-Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France.

    • Raphaëlle Abitbol

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Contributions

M.L. and M.P. designed all experiments. M.L. and R.A. collected the data. M.L. performed the data analysis. J.D. formalized the computational model. M.L. and M.P. wrote the manuscript. All authors discussed the results and commented the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mathias Pessiglione.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4064

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