Conflict tasks and the diffusion framework: Insight in model constraints based on psychological laws


  • Servant Mathieu
  • Montagnini Anna
  • Burle Boris

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Formal models of decision-making have traditionally focused on simple, two-choice perceptual decisions. To date, one of the most influential account of this process is Ratcliff's drift diffusion model (DDM). However, the extension of the model to more complex decisions is not straightforward. In particular, conflicting situations , such as the Eriksen, Stroop, or Simon tasks, require control mechanisms that shield the cognitive system against distracting information. We adopted a novel strategy to constrain response time (RT) models by concurrently investigating two well-known empirical laws in conflict tasks, both at experimental and modeling levels. The two laws, predicted by the DDM, describe the relationship between mean RT and (i) target intensity (Piéron's law), (ii) standard deviation of RT (Wagenmakers–Brown's law). Pioneering work has shown that Piéron's law holds in the Stroop task, and has highlighted an additive relationship between target intensity and compatibility. We found similar results in both Eriksen and Simon tasks. Compatibility also violated Wagenmakers–Brown's law in a very similar and particular fashion in the two tasks, suggesting a common model framework. To investigate the nature of this com-monality, predictions of two recent extensions of the DDM that incorporate selective attention mechanisms were simulated and compared to the experimental results. Both models predict Piéron's law and the violation of Wagenmakers–Brown's law by compatibility. Fits of the models to the RT distributions and accuracy data

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