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Title: Cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying post-decision processing
Author: Rollwage, Max
ISNI:       0000 0004 9359 787X
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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Contested issues, such as climate change, can generate polarised and rigid views. A prominent source of entrenched beliefs is confirmation bias, where evidence against one’s position is selectively disregarded. Although an extensive literature has documented this altered processing of new information, the underlying cognitive, computational and neuronal mechanisms remain unknown. In this thesis, I explore the mechanisms underlying this altered processing of new information, its relation to broader societal attitudes, and finally I test an intervention to alleviate this cognitive bias. In a first set of studies, I combined human magnetoencephalography (MEG) with behavioural and neural modelling to identify the drivers of altered post-decision evidence integration. I show that high confidence in an initial decision leads to a striking modulation of post-decision neural processing, such that integration of confirmatory evidence is amplified while disconfirmatory evidence processing is abolished. This indicates that confidence shapes a selective neural gating for choice-consistent information, reducing the likelihood of changes of mind. Confirmation bias has received most attention for its potential contribution to societal polarization and entrenchment. Therefore, in a second set of studies, I tested whether cognitive alterations in post-decision evidence integration are related to broader societal attitudes, such as dogmatic and rigid political beliefs. I found that dogmatic participants showed a reduced sensitivity for disconfirming post-decision evidence (i.e. a stronger confirmation bias) and a reduced tendency to actively seek out corrective information. In a final study, I tested a metacognitive training procedure as a potential intervention to counteract confirmation bias. This training improved participants’ metacognitive ability and through this boosted their processing of post-decision evidence, both on a behavioural and neural level. These studies provide a novel mechanistic understanding of confirmation bias, exemplify the potential societal implications of altered post-decision processing and enabled an evidence-based intervention to counteract this cognitive bias.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available