Optimal policy for attention-modulated decisions explains human fixation behavior

  1. Anthony Injoon Jang
  2. Ravi Sharma
  3. Jan Drugowitsch  Is a corresponding author
  1. Harvard Medical School, United States
  2. UC San Diego School of Medicine, United States

Abstract

Traditional accumulation-to-bound decision-making models assume that all choice options are processed with equal attention. In real life decisions, however, humans alternate their visual fixation between individual items to efficiently gather relevant information (Yang et al., 2016). These fixations also causally affect one's choices, biasing them toward the longer-fixated item (Krajbich et al., 2010). We derive a normative decision-making model in which attention enhances the reliability of information, consistent with neurophysiological findings (Cohen and Maunsell, 2009). Furthermore, our model actively controls fixation changes to optimize information gathering. We show that the optimal model reproduces fixation-related choice biases seen in humans and provides a Bayesian computational rationale for this phenomenon. This insight led to additional predictions that we could confirm in human data. Finally, by varying the relative cognitive advantage conferred by attention, we show that decision performance is benefited by a balanced spread of resources between the attended and unattended items.

Data availability

The human behavioral data and code are available through an open source license at https://github.com/DrugowitschLab/Optimal-policy-attention-modulated-decisions

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Anthony Injoon Jang

    Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Ravi Sharma

    Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, UC San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Jan Drugowitsch

    Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States
    For correspondence
    jan_drugowitsch@hms.harvard.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-7846-0408

Funding

National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH115554)

  • Jan Drugowitsch

James S. McDonnell Foundation (220020462)

  • Jan Drugowitsch

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

Ethics

Human subjects: Human behavioral data were obtained from previously published work from the California Institute of Technology (Krajbich et al., 2010). Caltech's Human Subjects Internal Review Board approved the experiment. Written informed consent was obtained from all participants.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Konstantinos Tsetsos, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

Publication history

  1. Received: September 24, 2020
  2. Accepted: March 17, 2021
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: March 26, 2021 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: April 23, 2021 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2021, Jang 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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  1. Anthony Injoon Jang
  2. Ravi Sharma
  3. Jan Drugowitsch
(2021)
Optimal policy for attention-modulated decisions explains human fixation behavior
eLife 10:e63436.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.63436

Further reading

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    Research Article Updated

    During flight maneuvers, insects exhibit compensatory head movements which are essential for stabilizing the visual field on their retina, reducing motion blur, and supporting visual self-motion estimation. In Diptera, such head movements are mediated via visual feedback from their compound eyes that detect retinal slip, as well as rapid mechanosensory feedback from their halteres – the modified hindwings that sense the angular rates of body rotations. Because non-Dipteran insects lack halteres, it is not known if mechanosensory feedback about body rotations plays any role in their head stabilization response. Diverse non-Dipteran insects are known to rely on visual and antennal mechanosensory feedback for flight control. In hawkmoths, for instance, reduction of antennal mechanosensory feedback severely compromises their ability to control flight. Similarly, when the head movements of freely flying moths are restricted, their flight ability is also severely impaired. The role of compensatory head movements as well as multimodal feedback in insect flight raises an interesting question: in insects that lack halteres, what sensory cues are required for head stabilization? Here, we show that in the nocturnal hawkmoth Daphnis nerii, compensatory head movements are mediated by combined visual and antennal mechanosensory feedback. We subjected tethered moths to open-loop body roll rotations under different lighting conditions, and measured their ability to maintain head angle in the presence or absence of antennal mechanosensory feedback. Our study suggests that head stabilization in moths is mediated primarily by visual feedback during roll movements at lower frequencies, whereas antennal mechanosensory feedback is required when roll occurs at higher frequency. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that control of head angle results from a multimodal feedback loop that integrates both visual and antennal mechanosensory feedback, albeit at different latencies. At adequate light levels, visual feedback is sufficient for head stabilization primarily at low frequencies of body roll. However, under dark conditions, antennal mechanosensory feedback is essential for the control of head movements at high frequencies of body roll.