Psychology News – A study revealed that confidence in a decision depends on the consciousness and higher attentional effort involved in making that decision. The results state that such a confident decision is more inclined to change via introspection. This leads to better decision-making skills and more effective exercise of self-control.
A team of researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich led by ETH Professor Rafael Polanía has systematically investigated the ‘confidence’ attributions in value-guided behavior.
The study implemented a behavioral paradigm that allowed teasing apart distinct sources of variability in decisions based on subjective values of the choice alternatives. There were three phases. In the first, the 35 study participants were asked to evaluate 64 products from two Swiss supermarket chains. On screen, they were presented with a picture of each product and asked how much they would like to eat it at the end of the experiment. In the second, the test subjects were shown a series of pictures that showed two products at the same time. In each case, they were asked to choose one of the two options (doughnut or apple, pizza or pear) and then rate how much confidence they had in their decision.
For realistic execution, the participants had to eat their chosen products in the aftermath of the evaluation and decision-making phases. Participants’ eye movements were recorded throughout the choice task at 1000 Hz with an EyeLink 1000 Plus eye tracker. This was to determine if the participants spent longer looking at one of the two products, how often their gaze shifted from left to right, and how quickly they made their decision. In the third phase, the acquired data and its comparison with a similar dataset from a different research group was used to develop a computer model that could predict the conditions in which people will have or lack confidence in their decisions.
The findings, published in Nature Communications, reveal that a confident decision is one that is made attentively, with the consciousness of having been made attentively. Conscious and higher attentional effort leads to greater confidence and greater capacity for change via introspection in a decision. This capacity for introspection is a significant parcel of the human ability to exercise self-control. This ability can further be enhanced through mindfulness and meditation. Moreover, the researchers were enthusiastic that the algorithms used in the study could have other applications, such as in smart glasses that track eye movements and in self-driving cars with sensors.
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Brus, J., Aebersold, H., Grueschow, M., & Polania, R. (2021). Sources of confidence in value-based choice. Nature communications, 12(1), 7337. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27618-5