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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1999 Oct;25(5):1189-206.

Decision processes in discrimination: fundamental misrepresentations of signal detection theory.

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Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA.


A new approach to studying decision making in discrimination tasks is described that does not depend on the technical assumptions of signal detection theory (e.g., normality of the encoding distributions). In 3 different experiments, results of these new distribution-free tests converge on a single, surprising conclusion: response biases had substantial effects on the encoding distributions but no effect on the decision rule, which was uniformly unbiased in equal and unequal base rate conditions and in symmetric and asymmetric payoff conditions. This seemingly paradoxical result is fundamentally inconsistent with the entire family of signal detection theory models, raising some important questions about the significance of many published results in the human performance literature.

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