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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Enhancing models of social and strategic decision making with process tracing and neural data

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Abstract Every decision we take is accompanied by a characteristic pattern of response delay, gaze position, pupil dilation, and neural activity. Nevertheless, many models of social decision making neglect the corresponding process tracing data and focus exclusively on the final choice outcome. Here, we argue that this is a mistake, as the use of process data can help to build better models of human behavior, create better experiments, and improve policy interventions. Specifically, such data allow us to unlock the “black box” of the decision process and evaluate the mechanisms underlying our social choices. Using these data, we can directly validate latent model variables, arbitrate between competing personal motives, and capture information processing strategies. These benefits are especially valuable in social science, where models must predict multi‐faceted decisions that are taken in varying contexts and are based on many different types of information. This article is categorized under: Economics > Interactive Decision‐Making Neuroscience > Cognition Psychology > Reasoning and Decision Making
Process data in social decisions. An illustration of how process data can index different stages of a choice between two options: Giving another person either $50 or $10 in a trust game (left and right boxes at the top of the figure). Note that the hierarchical and sequential nature of the figure merely serves illustrative purposes; the decision process is not necessarily top‐down and these stages might occur in parallel. (a) Representation stage: Facing this decision, the individual must process the payoff information (producing gaze data). The payoff information is then mapped onto preferences (as formalized in a preference retrieval/formation mechanism) to form values of the options. (b) Evaluation and value comparison stage: The options are evaluated and compared using a choice mechanism, producing choice outcomes and response times (RT). (c) Learning stage: After another person's choice is revealed (and processed visually, producing gaze data), the outcome is then compared to the expected reward, producing a prediction error if the obtained reward is different from the expected reward (via a reward learning mechanism) and/or an update of the individual's beliefs if the other person reacts to the outcome (via a social learning model). Learning mechanisms, including errors and belief updates, can be instantiated in neural activity and might affect values of future choices through the preference formation mechanism (gray arrows). These model‐assumed processing steps can be tested with at least three types of process data, as visualized by the yellow boxes
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Psychology > Reasoning and Decision Making
Neuroscience > Cognition
Economics > Interactive Decision-Making

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