Feeling lucky? prospective and retrospective cues for sensorimotor confidence

Marissa E. Fassold, Shannon M. Locke, Michael S. Landy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On a daily basis, humans interact with the outside world using judgments of sensorimotor confidence, constantly evaluating our actions for success. We ask, what sensory and motor-execution cues are used in making these judgements and when are they available? Two sources of temporally distinct information are prospective cues, available prior to the action (e.g., knowledge of motor noise and past performance), and retrospective cues specific to the action itself (e.g., proprioceptive measurements). We investigated the use of these two cues in two tasks, a secondary motor-awareness task and a main task in which participants reached toward a visual target with an unseen hand and then made a continuous judgment of confidence about the success of the reach. Confidence was reported by setting the size of a circle centered on the reach-target location, where a larger circle reflects lower confidence. Points were awarded if the confidence circle enclosed the true endpoint, with fewer points returned for larger circles. This incentivized accurate reaches and attentive reporting to maximize the score. We compared three Bayesian-inference models of sensorimotor confidence based on either prospective cues, retrospective cues, or both sources of information to maximize expected gain (i.e., an ideal-performance model). Our findings showed two distinct strategies: participants either performed as ideal observers, using both prospective and retrospective cues to make the confidence judgment, or relied solely on prospective information, ignoring retrospective cues. Thus, participants can make use of retrospective cues, evidenced by the behavior observed in our motor-awareness task, but these cues are not always included in the computation of sensorimotor confidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1010740
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number6 June
StatePublished - Jun 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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