Decision Making Journal Club

Pupil-linked arousal is driven by decision uncertainty and alters serial choice bias

While judging their sensory environments, decision-makers seem to use the uncertainty about their choices to guide adjustments of their subsequent behaviour. One possible source of these behavioural adjustments is arousal: decision uncertainty might drive the brain’s arousal systems, which control global brain state and might thereby shape subsequent decision-making. Here, we measure pupil diameter, a proxy for central arousal state, in human observers performing a perceptual choice task of varying difficulty. Pupil dilation, after choice but before external feedback, reflects three hallmark signatures of decision uncertainty derived from a computational model. This increase in pupil-linked arousal boosts observers’ tendency to alternate their choice on the subsequent trial. We conclude that decision uncertainty drives rapid changes in pupil-linked arousal state, which shape the serial correlation structure of ongoing choice behaviour.