Researchers have used eye-tracking methods to infer cognitive processes during decision making in choice tasks involving visual materials. Gaze likelihood analysis has shown a cascading effect, suggestive of a causal role for the gaze in preference formation during evaluative decision making. According to the gaze bias hypothesis, the gaze serves to build commitment gradually towards a choice. Here, we applied gaze likelihood analysis in a two-choice version of the well-known Iowa Gambling Task. This task requires active learning of the value of different choice options. As such, it does not involve visual preference formation, but choice optimization through learning. In Experiment 1 we asked subjects to choose between two decks with different payoff structures, and to give their responses using mouse clicks. Two groups of subjects were exposed to stable versus varying outcome contingencies. The analysis revealed a pronounced gaze bias towards the chosen stimuli in both groups of subjects, plateauing at more than 400 ms before the choice. The early plateauing suggested that the gaze effect partially reflected eye-hand coordination. In Experiment 2 we asked subjects to give responses using a key press. The results again showed a clear gaze bias towards the chosen deck, this time without any influence from eye-hand coordination. In both experiments, there was a clear gaze bias towards the choice even though the gaze fixations did not narrowly focus on the spatial positions of choice options. Taken together, the data suggested a role for gaze in coarse spatial indexing during non-perceptual decision making.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience