1. Neuroscience
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Response-based outcome predictions and confidence regulate feedback processing and learning

  1. Romy Frömer  Is a corresponding author
  2. Matthew R Nassar
  3. Rasmus Bruckner
  4. Birgit Stürmer
  5. Werner Sommer
  6. Nick Yeung
  1. Brown University, United States
  2. Freie University, Germany
  3. International Psychoanalytic University Berlin, Germany
  4. Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany
  5. University of Oxford, United Kingdom
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Cite this article as: eLife 2021;10:e62825 doi: 10.7554/eLife.62825


Influential theories emphasize the importance of predictions in learning: we learn from feedback to the extent that it is surprising, and thus conveys new information. Here we explore the hypothesis that surprise depends not only on comparing current events to past experience, but also on online evaluation of performance via internal monitoring. Specifically, we propose that people leverage insights from response-based performance monitoring – outcome predictions and confidence – to control learning from feedback. In line with predictions from a Bayesian inference model, we find that people who are better at calibrating their confidence to the precision of their outcome predictions learn more quickly. Further in line with our proposal, EEG signatures of feedback processing are sensitive to the accuracy of, and confidence in, post-response outcome predictions. Taken together, our results suggest that online predictions and confidence serve to calibrate neural error signals to improve the efficiency of learning.

Data availability

Scripts and source data for all analyses are available under https://github.com/froemero/Outcome-Predictions-and-Confidence-Regulate-Learning.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Romy Frömer

    Cognitive, Linguistic & Psychological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-9468-4014
  2. Matthew R Nassar

    Robert J and Nancy D Carney Institute for Brain Science, Brown University, Providence, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-5397-535X
  3. Rasmus Bruckner

    Department of Education and Psychology, Freie University, Berlin, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-3033-6299
  4. Birgit Stürmer

    General Psychology and Neurocognitive Psychology, International Psychoanalytic University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Werner Sommer

    Psychology, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. Nick Yeung

    University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


NIH Office of the Director (R00 AG054732)

  • Matthew R Nassar

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Human subjects: The study was performed following the guidelines of the ethics committee of the department of Psychology at Humboldt University. Participants gave informed consent to the experiment and were remunerated with course credits or 8 € per hour.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Tadeusz Wladyslaw Kononowicz, Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, CEA DRF/Joliot, INSERM, Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Saclay, NeuroSpin center, France

Publication history

  1. Received: September 4, 2020
  2. Accepted: April 30, 2021
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: April 30, 2021 (version 1)


© 2021, Frömer et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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