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Title: Effects of temporal expectation on complex decision making
Author: Greatrex, David Charles
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 4255
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Many complex decisions require integrating and assessing multiple streams of dynamic information whilst determining how to act. This dynamic information often contains rhythmic structures which our sensory systems can adapt to and use to anticipate future events. Despite the close relationship between rhythmic temporal expectations and complex decision making being self evident, no experiments explicitly attempt to understand this interdependence. If the theories that have emerged from both domains are to generalise to complex interactive behaviour, the effects of dynamic context on complex decisions must be considered. I argue that timing research must move beyond simple decisions and develop a new experimental framework for addressing the problem. This includes increasing the complexity of experimental tasks, testing the effects of timing on perceptual averaging and subjective value decisions, incorporating timing as an inherent dimension of targets, testing degrees of aperiodicity and exploring the effects that prior knowledge about the temporal structure of a stimulus has on choice. Seven behavioural experiments are reported that implement the new experimental framework. Five use a complex auditory-spatial averaging task to examine effects of periodicity, expectation, prior knowledge and related parameters such as IOI variance. One tests the effects of rhythmic variability and stimulus duration on auditory detection to determine specificity to complex decision making, and one investigates the effects of timing on audio-visual subjective value decisions. The results show that existing theories of temporal expectation do not necessarily generalise to complex decision making. Periodicity reduces the amount of information that is needed to form complex decisions. However, the effects of periodicity (or degree of aperiodicity) on choice are dependent on a number of factors associated with prior knowledge, stimulus rate, variance, decision type and task complexity. Using these findings I develop an explanatory framework called "dynamic inhibition and boosting" that better accounts for behavioural data in the literature compared with existing theories. This explanation is supported by the novel proposal that temporal expectations influence confidence and perceived risk.
Supervisor: Cross, Ian ; Hawkins, Sarah Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Decision making ; Temporal expectation ; Selective attention ; Timing ; Sound lateralisation