How Do Expectations Change Behavior? Investigating the Contributions at Encoding Versus Decision-Making

Syaheed B. Jabar, Daryl Fougnie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Expectations about the environment play a large role in shaping behavior, but how does this occur? Do expectations change the way we perceive the world, or just our decisions based on unbiased perceptions? We investigated the relative contributions of priors to these 2 stages by manipulating when information about expected color was provided. We compared cases where the prior could affect encoding into perceptual/working memory representations (e.g., when provided prestimulus) against cases where it could not (e.g., when given at response after a delay). Although priors had a minor influence on encoding, the bulk of the effects were at decision-making. Furthermore, these effects appeared to be distinct. The effect on decision-making was Bayesian-like, with priors inducing bias while improving precision. In contrast, the same priors at encoding improved precision without causing changes in bias. Priors do not just affect encoding or decision-making, but appear to affect both, via distinct mechanisms. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-241
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Bayesian priors
  • Decision-making
  • Expectation
  • Visual perception
  • Working memory
  • Motivation
  • Bias
  • Humans
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Decision Making/physiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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