Michael J. Beran, Ph.D.
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Last updated: 
September 1, 2021

 

 

Smith, J. D., Beran, M. J., Redford, J. S., & Washburn, D. A. (2006). Dissociating uncertainty responses and reinforcement signals in the comparative study of uncertainty monitoring. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 135, 282-297.

Although researchers are exploring animals' capacity for monitoring their states of uncertainty, the use of some paradigms allows the criticism that animals map avoidance responses to error-causing stimuli not because of uncertainty monitored but because of feedback signals and stimulus aversion. The authors addressed this criticism with an uncertainty-monitoring task in which participants completed blocks of trials with feedback deferred so that they could not associate reinforcement signals to particular stimuli or stimulus-response pairs. Humans and 1 of 2 monkeys were able to make cognitive, decisional uncertainty responses that were independent of feedback or reinforcement history within a task. This finding unifies the comparative literature on uncertainty monitoring. The dissociation of performance from reinforcement has theoretical implications, and the deferred-feedback technique has many applications.

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