Decision deadlines and uncertainty monitoring: The effect of time constraints on uncertainty and perceptual responses

Alexandria C. Zakrzewski, Mariana V.C. Coutinho, Joseph Boomer, Barbara A. Church, J. David Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The behavioral uncertainty response has grounded the study of animal metacognition and influenced the study of human psychophysics. However, the interpretation of this response is debated-especially whether it is a behavioral index of metacognition. The authors advanced this interpretation using the dissociative technique of response deadlines. Uncertainty responding, if it is higher level or metacognitive, should depend on a slower, more controlled decisional process and be more vulnerable to time constraints. Humans performed sparse-uncertain-dense or sparse-middle-dense discriminations in which, respectively, they could decline difficult trials or positively identify middle stimuli. Uncertainty responses were sharply and selectively reduced under a decision deadline, as compared to primary perceptual responses (i.e., "sparse," "middle," and "dense" responses). This dissociation suggests that the uncertainty response does reflect a higher-level, decisional response. It grants the uncertainty response a distinctive psychological role in its task and encourages an interpretation of this response as an elemental behavioral index of uncertainty that deserves continuing research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-770
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Controlled processing
  • Decision making
  • Metacognition
  • Response deadlines
  • Uncertainty monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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