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Modelling Movement as an Ongoing Decision Open Access


Other title
Decision Making
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Wispinski, Nathan J
Supervisor and department
Singhal, Anthony (Psychology)
Chapman, Craig (Physical Education and Recreation)
Examining committee member and department
Mathewson, Kyle (Psychology)
Jones, Kelvin (Physical Education and Recreation)
Singhal, Anthony (Psychology)
Chapman, Craig (Physical Education and Recreation)
Department of Psychology

Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Master of Science
Degree level
How do we make decisions, like which drink to reach and grab out of a fridge, or which path to take on a hike? Decades of research on decision making has led to powerful models of how options compete within our brains to be selected. However, these models, and the field of decision making in general, is split in two halves: the competition between options before a movement begins, and the competition between options after a movement has begun. Here, I propose a computational model of decision making that aims to bridge these two halves. Specifically, we model decision making as one process that determines when to initiate a movement, and another that acts to move toward an option proportional to its ongoing desirability. In Chapter 2, this model is compared to data collected while people were asked to reach and touch which of two snack foods they preferred. Despite its relative simplicity, we find the model can account for a diverse range of human behaviour during decision making, and is highly generalizable to a variety of experimental paradigms. In Chapter 3, I present neural data collected during a different decision making task - one where people were asked to decide which of two circles was brighter. These data do not align with many models focused on only one half of decision making, and instead provide support for the neural processes predicted by our model in Chapter 2. Together, these results support a new formal way of thinking about decision making - as a single, continuous competition between options, only seemingly split in half by the question about when to move.
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