Fixation patterns in simple choice reflect optimal information sampling

Frederick Callaway, Antonio Rangel, Thomas L. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Simple choices (e.g., eating an apple vs. an orange) are made by integrating noisy evidence that is sampled over time and influenced by visual attention; as a result, fluctuations in visual attention can affect choices. But what determines what is fixated and when? To address this question, we model the decision process for simple choice as an information sampling problem, and approximate the optimal sampling policy. We find that it is optimal to sample from options whose value estimates are both high and uncertain. Furthermore, the optimal policy provides a reasonable account of fixations and choices in binary and trinary simple choice, as well as the differences between the two cases. Overall, the results show that the fixation process during simple choice is influenced dynamically by the value estimates computed during the decision process, in a manner consistent with optimal information sampling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1008863
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Ecology
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Modeling and Simulation


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