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

tion 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."


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

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