Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 16 July 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00213

Can post-error dynamics explain sequential reaction time patterns?

Stephanie Goldfarb1,2*, KongFatt Wong-Lin3, Michael Schwemmer1,4, Naomi Ehrich Leonard1,2,4 and Philip Holmes1,2,4
  • 1Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, NJ, USA
  • 2Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, NJ, USA
  • 3Intelligent Systems Research Centre, University of Ulster, Magee Campus, Northern Ireland, UK
  • 4Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics, Princeton University, NJ, USA

We investigate human error dynamics in sequential two-alternative choice tasks. When subjects repeatedly discriminate between two stimuli, their error rates and reaction times (RTs) systematically depend on prior sequences of stimuli. We analyze these sequential effects on RTs, separating error and correct responses, and identify a sequential RT tradeoff: a sequence of stimuli which yields a relatively fast RT on error trials will produce a relatively slow RT on correct trials and vice versa. We reanalyze previous data and acquire and analyze new data in a choice task with stimulus sequences generated by a first-order Markov process having unequal probabilities of repetitions and alternations. We then show that relationships among these stimulus sequences and the corresponding RTs for correct trials, error trials, and averaged over all trials are significantly influenced by the probability of alternations; these relationships have not been captured by previous models. Finally, we show that simple, sequential updates to the initial condition and thresholds of a pure drift diffusion model can account for the trends in RT for correct and error trials. Our results suggest that error-based parameter adjustments are critical to modeling sequential effects.

Keywords: drift diffusion model, error rate, perceptual decision making, post-error slowing, reaction time, sequential effects

Citation: Goldfarb S, Wong-Lin K, Schwemmer M, Leonard NE and Holmes P (2012) Can post-error dynamics explain sequential reaction time patterns? Front. Psychology 3:213. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00213

Received: 19 February 2012; Paper pending published: 06 March 2012;
Accepted: 08 June 2012; Published online: 16 July 2012.

Edited by:

Marius Usher, Tel-Aviv University, Israel

Reviewed by:

Eddy J. Davelaar, Birkbeck College, UK
Don Van Ravenzwaaij, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Copyright: © 2012 Goldfarb, Wong-Lin, Schwemmer, Leonard and Holmes. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Stephanie Goldfarb, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, NJ 08544, USA. e-mail: sgoldfar@princeton.edu

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