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      Embodied Choice: How Action Influences Perceptual Decision Making

      1 , 2 , 3 , *

      PLoS Computational Biology

      Public Library of Science

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          Embodied Choice considers action performance as a proper part of the decision making process rather than merely as a means to report the decision. The central statement of embodied choice is the existence of bidirectional influences between action and decisions. This implies that for a decision expressed by an action, the action dynamics and its constraints ( e.g. current trajectory and kinematics) influence the decision making process. Here we use a perceptual decision making task to compare three types of model: a serial decision-then-action model, a parallel decision-and-action model, and an embodied choice model where the action feeds back into the decision making. The embodied model incorporates two key mechanisms that together are lacking in the other models: action preparation and commitment. First, action preparation strategies alleviate delays in enacting a choice but also modify decision termination. Second, action dynamics change the prospects and create a commitment effect to the initially preferred choice. Our results show that these two mechanisms make embodied choice models better suited to combine decision and action appropriately to achieve suitably fast and accurate responses, as usually required in ecologically valid situations. Moreover, embodied choice models with these mechanisms give a better account of trajectory tracking experiments during decision making. In conclusion, the embodied choice framework offers a combined theory of decision and action that gives a clear case that embodied phenomena such as the dynamics of actions can have a causal influence on central cognition.

          Author Summary

          The modern view of how we make perceptual decisions is of a process of accumulating sensory evidence until reaching a threshold level of certainty. However, this evidence accumulation model neglects the contribution of action and motor processes to the choice that is made. Recent novel studies that track the changing dynamics of actions during perceptual decisions are increasingly revealing the contribution of the actions we make to our perceptual choices. Thus, the action dynamics of our bodies causally influences our central cognition, which is a core assumption of embodied theories of mind. This paper presents an explanation of how actions, encompassing behavioral strategies such as preparation and commitment, can bias decision making processes in ways that optimize the ecological choices of animals behaving in natural environments. It thus combines two disconnected research streams, decision-making and action control in a manner consistent with theoretical and psychological arguments for embodied cognition.

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          Most cited references 48

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          The study of decision making spans such varied fields as neuroscience, psychology, economics, statistics, political science, and computer science. Despite this diversity of applications, most decisions share common elements including deliberation and commitment. Here we evaluate recent progress in understanding how these basic elements of decision formation are implemented in the brain. We focus on simple decisions that can be studied in the laboratory but emphasize general principles likely to extend to other settings.
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            A central problem in motor control is understanding how the many biomechanical degrees of freedom are coordinated to achieve a common goal. An especially puzzling aspect of coordination is that behavioral goals are achieved reliably and repeatedly with movements rarely reproducible in their detail. Existing theoretical frameworks emphasize either goal achievement or the richness of motor variability, but fail to reconcile the two. Here we propose an alternative theory based on stochastic optimal feedback control. We show that the optimal strategy in the face of uncertainty is to allow variability in redundant (task-irrelevant) dimensions. This strategy does not enforce a desired trajectory, but uses feedback more intelligently, correcting only those deviations that interfere with task goals. From this framework, task-constrained variability, goal-directed corrections, motor synergies, controlled parameters, simplifying rules and discrete coordination modes emerge naturally. We present experimental results from a range of motor tasks to support this theory.
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              The diffusion decision model: theory and data for two-choice decision tasks.

              The diffusion decision model allows detailed explanations of behavior in two-choice discrimination tasks. In this article, the model is reviewed to show how it translates behavioral data-accuracy, mean response times, and response time distributions-into components of cognitive processing. Three experiments are used to illustrate experimental manipulations of three components: stimulus difficulty affects the quality of information on which a decision is based; instructions emphasizing either speed or accuracy affect the criterial amounts of information that a subject requires before initiating a response; and the relative proportions of the two stimuli affect biases in drift rate and starting point. The experiments also illustrate the strong constraints that ensure the model is empirically testable and potentially falsifiable. The broad range of applications of the model is also reviewed, including research in the domains of aging and neurophysiology.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS Comput Biol
                PLoS Comput. Biol
                PLoS Computational Biology
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                April 2015
                7 April 2015
                : 11
                : 4
                [1 ]Department of Engineering Mathematics, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
                [2 ]Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), University of Bristol and University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom
                [3 ]Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, National Research Council, Rome, Italy
                Brain and Spine Institute (ICM), FRANCE
                Author notes

                The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: NFL GP. Performed the experiments: NFL GP. Analyzed the data: NFL GP. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: NFL GP. Wrote the paper: NFL GP.


                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

                Page count
                Figures: 7, Tables: 2, Pages: 22
                GP has received research funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme, grant FP7-270108 (Goal-Leaders) and by the Human Frontier Science Program, grant RGY0088/2014. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                All data underlying the findings described in the manuscript can be downloaded from

                Quantitative & Systems biology


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