A model of the interdependence of previous sensorimotor experiences in the following decision making

Evelina Dineva & Gregor Schöner, How infants’ reaches reveal principles of sensorimotor decision making, Connection Science vol. 30 iss. 1, p. 53-80, DOI: 10.1080/09540091.2017.1405382.

In Piaget’s classical A-not-B-task, infants repeatedly make a sensorimotor decision to reach to one of two cued targets. Perseverative errors are induced by switching the cue from A to B, while spontaneous errors are unsolicited reaches to B when only A is cued. We argue that theoretical accounts of sensorimotor decision-making fail to address how motor decisions leave a memory trace that may impact future sensorimotor decisions. Instead, in extant neural models, perseveration is caused solely by the history of stimulation. We present a neural dynamic model of sensorimotor decision-making within the framework of Dynamic Field Theory, in which a dynamic instability amplifies fluctuations in neural activation into macroscopic, stable neural activation states that leave memory traces. The model predicts perseveration, but also a tendency to repeat spontaneous errors. To test the account, we pool data from several A-not-B experiments. A conditional probabilities analysis accounts quantitatively how motor decisions depend on the history of reaching. The results provide evidence for the interdependence among subsequent reaching decisions that is explained by the model, showing that by amplifying small differences in activation and affecting learning, decisions have consequences beyond the individual behavioural act.

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