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Cognition and Perception | Cognitive Psychology | Other Psychology


Individuals often need to make quick decisions based on incomplete or “noisy” information. This requires the coordination of attentional, perceptual, cognitive, and behavioral mechanisms. This poses a challenge for isolating the unique effects of each subprocess from behavioral data, which reflect the summation of all subprocesses combined. Sequential sampling models offer a more detailed examination of behavioral data, enabling us to separate decisional and non-decisional processes at play in a task. Participants were required to identify briefly presented shapes while perceptual (duration, size, location) and response features (location-congruent/-incongruent/-neutral) of the task were manipulated. The diffusion model (Ratcliff, 1978) was used to dissociate decisional and executive processes in the task. In Experiment 1, stimuli were presented for either 20 or 80 ms to the left or right of a central fixation while response keys were positioned horizontally. In Experiment 2, stimulus size was manipulated rather than duration. In Experiment 3, response keys were positioned vertically. Results showed a duration × response mapping interaction. Participants displayed stimulus–response (S–R) congruency biases only on short-duration trials. This effect was observed for both horizontal and vertical response key mappings. Stimulus size affected participant response speed, but did not elicit S–R congruency biases. The present findings show that when perceptual quality of evidence is poor, individuals rely more heavily on spatial-motor mechanisms when making speeded choice decisions. Furthermore, positioning response keys vertically is insufficient to eliminate S–R congruency effects. Diffusion model parameters are presented and implications of the model are discussed.


Address correspondence to Blaine Tomkins, Department of Psychology, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, 37 South College Avenue, St. Joseph, MN 56374; e-mail: