How Overconfidence Bias Influences Suboptimality in Perceptual Decision Making


  • Hainguerlot Marine
  • Gajdos Thibault
  • Vergnaud Jean-Christophe
  • de Gardelle Vincent


  • Overconfidence bias
  • Perceptual decision making
  • Suboptimality
  • Signal detection theory
  • Conservative decision bias
  • Sensitivity

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In perceptual decision making, it is often found that human observers combine sensory information and prior knowledge suboptimally. Typically, in detection tasks, when an alternative is a priori more likely to occur, observers choose it more frequently to account for the unequal base rate but not to the extent they should, a phenomenon referred to as “conservative decision bias” (i.e., observers do not shift their decision criterion enough). One theoretical explanation of this phenomenon is that observers are overconfident in their ability to interpret sensory information, resulting in overweighting the sensory information relative to prior knowledge. Here, we derived formally this candidate model, and we tested it in a visual discrimination task in which we manipulated the prior probabilities of occurrence of the stimuli. We measured confidence in decisions and decision criterion placement in two separate experimental sessions for the same participants (N = 69). Both overconfidence bias and conservative decision bias were found in our data, but critically the link that was predicted between these two quantities was absent. Our data suggested instead that when informed about the a priori probability, overconfident participants put less effort into processing sensory information. These findings offer new perspectives on the role of overconfidence bias to explain suboptimal decisions.

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