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

NEW YORK, NY (March 7, 2014) Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers have found that decision-making accuracy can be improved by postponing the onset of a decision by a mere fraction of a second. The results could further our understanding of neuropsychiatric conditions characterized by abnormalities in cognitive function and lead to new training strategies to improve decision-making in high-stake environments. The study was published in the March 5 online issue of the journal PLoS One.

"Decision making isn't always easy, and sometimes we make errors on seemingly trivial tasks, especially if multiple sources of information compete for our attention," said first author Tobias Teichert, PhD, a postdoctoral research scientist in neuroscience at CUMC at the time of the study and now an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. "We have identified a novel mechanism that is surprisingly effective at improving response accuracy.

The mechanism requires that decision-makers do nothingjust briefly. "Postponing the onset of the decision process by as little as 50 to 100 milliseconds enables the brain to focus attention on the most relevant information and block out irrelevant distractors," said last author Jack Grinband, PhD, associate research scientist in the Taub Institute and assistant professor of clinical radiology (physics). "This way, rather than working longer or harder at making the decision, the brain simply postpones the decision onset to a more beneficial point in time."

In making decisions, the brain integrates many small pieces of potentially contradictory sensory information. "Imagine that you're coming up to a traffic lightthe targetand need to decide whether the light is red or green," said Dr. Teichert. "There is typically little ambiguity, and you make the correct decision quickly, in a matter of tens of milliseconds."

The decision process itself, however, does not 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 condition simulates real-life situations, such as driving, where the time to respond is beyond the driver's control. "Manipulating how long the subject viewed the stimulus before responding allowed us to determine how quickly the brain is able to block out the distractors and focus on the target dots," said Dr. Grinband.

"In this situation, it takes about 120 milliseconds to shift attention from one stimulus (the bright distractors) to another (the darker targets)," said Dr. Grinband. "To our knowledge, that's something that no one has ever measured before."

The experiments also revealed that it's more beneficial to delay rather than prolong the decision process. The delay allows attention to be focused on the target stimulus and helps prevent irrelevant information from interfering with the decision process. "Basically, by delaying decision onsetsimply by doing nothingyou are more likely to make a correct decision," said Dr. Teichert.

Finally, the results showed that decision onset is, to some extent, under cognitive control. "The subjects automatically used this mechanism to improve response accuracy," said Dr. Teichert. "However, we don't think that they were aware that they were doing so. The process seems to go on behind the scenes. We hope to devise training strategies to bring the mechanism under conscious control."

"This might be the first scientific study to justify procrastination," Dr. Teichert said. "On a more serious note, our study provides important insights into fundamental brain processes and yields clues as to what might be going wrong in diseases such as ADHD and schizophrenia. It also could lead to new training strategies to improve decision making in complex high-stakes environments, such as air traffic control towers and military combat."


'/>"/>
Contact: Karin Eskenazi
ket2116@columbia.edu
212-342-0508
Columbia University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. RSNA: Brain Chemical Ratios Help Predict Developmental Delays in Preterm Infants
2. Brain chemical ratios help predict developmental delays in preterm infants
3. Milliman Actuaries to Identify Effective Strategies for Health Plans Amid Obama’s One-Year Delay During Upcoming AIS Webinar
4. DePuy Pinnacle Hip Lawsuit News: Bernstein Liebhard LLP Notes Order Delaying Consideration of Remand Motions in Federal Pinnacle Hip Litigation
5. Transvaginal Mesh Injury Lawsuits: C.R. Bard Trial Delayed One Month, Rottenstein Law Group LLP Reports
6. Children born to teen mothers have delayed development, likely due to social factors
7. Is Money the Top Reason Why Americans Are Delaying Marriages?
8. Comprehensive Arthroscopic Management - CAM Procedure - Successfully Delays Shoulder Replacement for Young, Active Patients with Shoulder Osteoarthritis
9. Mold Threatens to Delay Pennsylvania School Opening, My Cleaning Products Introduces a Prompt Mold Removal Tip to Avoid Fungus' Worse Effects
10. Zane Benefits Publishes New Information on the Delay in ObamaCare Consumer Protection.
11. Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Delay of Obamacare’s Out-of-Pocket Cost Limits
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... The Commission for ... the Board of Commissioners. Individuals interested in volunteer board service are encouraged to ... clinical practice settings and across allied health to contribute to its mission and ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... Greenfield Insurance Group in Orange ... assist the people of their local community. The agency pledges to select a ... Their hope is to bring awareness to important local causes with fundraising and ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... ongoing community involvement program, introduces a new charity campaign to raise funds for ... now being accepted at https://donate.rmhc.org/ . , Ronald McDonald House (RMH) is ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... , ... Be Well Medical Group (Be Well) is pleased to ... 108 South Columbus St, Suite 201, Alexandria, VA. Be Well Medical Group is a ... convenience of their homes, offices or at the practices’ local office. It is also ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... Food Labeling for ... health and wellness best practices in the past couple of decades, and food ... American Heart Month, which acts as an exceptional opportunity to revise food labels ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... Feb. 11, 2016  Ampio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NYSE MKT: ... entered into a Controlled Equity Offering SM Sales ... Michael Macaluso , Chairman and CEO, stated "During ... are not currently raising money and that we have ... 2017 and still complete all of our current objectives ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... Germany , February 11, 2016 ... up 6.8% to EUR 1,377.2m  Adjusted EBITDA climbs to ... 18.0% to EUR 3.41  Proposed dividend of EUR 0.85 ... sale of glass tubing business and refinancing successfully completed  ... to 5% on organic basis  Adjusted EBITDA expected ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... REDWOOD CITY, Calif., Feb. 10, 2016   Genomic Health, Inc. ... progress for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2015. ... in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared with $69.1 million in ... a constant currency basis, revenue increased 9 percent compared with the ... --> U.S. revenue was $63.9 million in the fourth ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: