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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2006 May;135(2):282-97.

Dissociating uncertainty responses and reinforcement signals in the comparative study of uncertainty monitoring.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Center for Cognitive Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14260, USA.


Although researchers are exploring animals' capacity for monitoring their states of uncertainty, the use of some paradigms allows the criticism that animals map avoidance responses to error-causing stimuli not because of uncertainty monitored but because of feedback signals and stimulus aversion. The authors addressed this criticism with an uncertainty-monitoring task in which participants completed blocks of trials with feedback deferred so that they could not associate reinforcement signals to particular stimuli or stimulus-response pairs. Humans and 1 of 2 monkeys were able to make cognitive, decisional uncertainty responses that were independent of feedback or reinforcement history within a task. This finding unifies the comparative literature on uncertainty monitoring. The dissociation of performance from reinforcement has theoretical implications, and the deferred-feedback technique has many applications.

2006 APA, all rights reserved

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