Multiple decisions about one object involve parallel sensory acquisition but time-multiplexed evidence incorporation
The brain is capable of processing several streams of information that bear on different aspects of the same problem. Here, we address the problem of making two decisions about one object, by studying difficult perceptual decisions about the color and motion of a dynamic random dot display. We find that the accuracy of one decision is unaffected by the difficulty of the other decision. However, the response times reveal that the two decisions do not form simultaneously. We show that both stimulus dimensions are acquired in parallel for the initial ∼0.1 s but are then incorporated serially in time-multiplexed bouts. Thus, there is a bottleneck that precludes updating more than one decision at a time, and a buffer that stores samples of evidence while access to the decision is blocked. We suggest that this bottleneck is responsible for the long timescales of many cognitive operations framed as decisions.
Funder: Howard Hughes Medical Institute; FundRef: http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000011
Simons Foundation (414196)
Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (28476)
National Eye Institute (R01EY11378)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (R01NS113113)