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Psychol Sci. 2018 May;29(5):761-778. doi: 10.1177/0956797617744771. Epub 2018 Apr 2.

Subjective Confidence Predicts Information Seeking in Decision Making.

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1 Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany.
2 Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University.
3 Department of Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
4 Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge.
5 Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London.
6 Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford.


There is currently little direct evidence regarding the function of subjective confidence in decision making: The tight correlation between objective accuracy and subjective confidence makes it difficult to distinguish each variable's unique contribution. Here, we created conditions in a perceptual decision task that were matched in accuracy but differed in subjective evaluation of accuracy by orthogonally varying the strength versus variability of evidence. Confidence was reduced with variable (vs. weak) evidence, even across conditions matched for difficulty. Building on this dissociation, we constructed a paradigm in which participants ( N = 20) could choose to seek further information before making their decision. The data provided clear support for the hypothesis that subjective confidence predicts information seeking in decision making: Participants were more likely to sample additional information before giving a response in the condition with low confidence, despite matched accuracy. In a preregistered replication ( N = 50), these findings were replicated with increased task difficulty levels.


confidence; consciousness; decision making; metacognition; open data; preregistered; subjective confidence

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