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Title: On the uses of confidence judgements to guide behaviour
Author: Carlebach, Naomi
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 5296
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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The ability to reflect upon our own thoughts and actions is a defining feature of human cognition. People can evaluate the quality of their own performance and report levels of confidence that are correlated with objective accuracy. As such, the subjective sense of confidence that accompanies our decisions and beliefs could potentially be a useful tool that can guide adaptive behaviour. The research presented in this thesis explores this idea to examine the functional role of confidence and the scope of its influence on our behaviour. Across three lines of work, the role of confidence is studied in the context of carefully-controlled perceptual decision making tasks. In the first part of this work, I examine the role of confidence in guiding task selections, acting as a valuable indicator of likely success. I present data showing that people exhibit a preference for tasks in which they report higher confidence. Furthermore, I show that confidence guides task choices in a more nuanced way than binary error detection, and that this preference is evident even when external feedback is available. In the second part, I examine the proposal that people can use their confidence flexibly, depending on the specific context. Using an advice seeking task, I show that when advice quality is unknown, people select advice more often when their confidence is high, presumably using their confidence as a feedback proxy to learn about advisor quality. A contrasting pattern is observed when advice quality is known, with people requesting more advice when confidence is low, consistent with the idea that confidence is used as a self-monitoring tool that signals that external help is needed. Together, the results indicate that people use confidence in a way that is directed towards achieving their current goals. The third part explores how confidence also modulates attention and, through this, influences lower-level processing of information. I present behavioural and electrophysiological data indicating that high confidence in the informativeness of task-relevant information is associated with greater attention towards it. Overall, the three lines of work provide converging support for the view that confidence plays an important role in guiding behaviour in a flexible, goal-directed way, and suggest that it influences a wide range of both high-level and low-level processes.
Supervisor: Yeung, Nick Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available