Finding the right fit: A comparison of cognitive process assumptions underlying popular drift-diffusion models


Recent research makes increasing use of eye-tracking methodologies to generate and test process models. Overall, such research suggests that attention, generally indexed by fixations (gaze duration), plays a critical role in the construction of preference, although the methods used to support this supposition differ substantially. In 2 studies we empirically test prototypical versions of prominent processing assumptions against 1 another and several base models. We find that general evidence accumulation processes provide a good fit to the data. An accumulation process that assumes leakage and temporal variability in evidence weighting (i.e., a primacy effect) fits the aggregate data, both in terms of choices and decision times, and does so across varying types of choices (e.g., charitable giving and hedonic consumption) and numbers of options well. However, when comparing models on the level of the individual, for a majority of participants simpler models capture choice data better. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42, 1982–1993