The known unknowns:neural representation of second-order uncertainty, and ambiguity

Bach, Dominik R, Hulme, Oliver, Penny, William D ORCID: and Dolan, Raymond J (2011) The known unknowns:neural representation of second-order uncertainty, and ambiguity. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31 (13). pp. 4811-4820. ISSN 0270-6474

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Predictions provided by action-outcome probabilities entail a degree of (first-order) uncertainty. However, these probabilities themselves can be imprecise and embody second-order uncertainty. Tracking second-order uncertainty is important for optimal decision making and reinforcement learning. Previous functional magnetic resonance imaging investigations of second-order uncertainty in humans have drawn on an economic concept of ambiguity, where action-outcome associations in a gamble are either known (unambiguous) or completely unknown (ambiguous). Here, we relaxed the constraints associated with a purely categorical concept of ambiguity and varied the second-order uncertainty of gambles continuously, quantified as entropy over second-order probabilities. We show that second-order uncertainty influences decisions in a pessimistic way by biasing second-order probabilities, and that second-order uncertainty is negatively correlated with posterior cingulate cortex activity. The category of ambiguous (compared with nonambiguous) gambles also biased choice in a similar direction, but was associated with distinct activation of a posterior parietal cortical area; an activation that we show reflects a different computational mechanism. Our findings indicate that behavioral and neural responses to second-order uncertainty are distinct from those associated with ambiguity and may call for a reappraisal of previous data.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: adult,brain,brain mapping,choice behavior,decision making,female,gambling,humans,magnetic resonance imaging,male,photic stimulation,uncertainty,young adult,comparative study
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Centres > Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Sciences
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2017 05:06
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2023 22:33
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1452-10.2011

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