Evidence integration in model-based tree search

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2015

Research on the dynamics of reward-based, goal-directed decision making has largely focused on simple choice, where participants decide among a set of unitary, mutually exclusive options. Recent work suggests that the deliberation process underlying simple choice can be understood in terms of evidence integration: Noisy evidence in favor of each option accrues over time, until the evidence in favor of one option is significantly greater than the rest. However, real-life decisions often involve not one, but several steps of action, requiring a consideration of cumulative rewards and a sensitivity to recursive decision structure. We present results from two experiments that leveraged techniques previously applied to simple choice to shed light on the deliberation process underlying multistep choice. We interpret the results from these experiments in terms of a new computational model, which extends the evidence accumulation perspective to multiple steps of action.

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