Model-based fMRI reveals dissimilarity processes underlying base rate neglect. Academic Article uri icon


  • Extensive evidence suggests that people use base rate information inconsistently in decision making. A classic example is the inverse base rate effect (IBRE), whereby participants classify ambiguous stimuli sharing features of both common and rare categories as members of the rare category. Computational models of the IBRE have posited that it arises either from associative similarity-based mechanisms or from dissimilarity-based processes that may depend on higher-level inference. Here we develop a hybrid model, which posits that similarity- and dissimilarity-based evidence both contribute to the IBRE, and test it using functional magnetic resonance imaging data collected from human subjects completing an IBRE task. Consistent with our model, multivoxel pattern analysis reveals that activation patterns on ambiguous test trials contain information consistent with dissimilarity-based processing. Further, trial-by-trial activation in left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex tracks model-based predictions for dissimilarity-based processing, consistent with theories positing a role for higher-level symbolic processing in the IBRE.

published proceedings

  • Elife

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • O'Bryan, S. R., Worthy, D. A., Livesey, E. J., & Davis, T.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • O'Bryan, Sean R||Worthy, Darrell A||Livesey, Evan J||Davis, Tyler

publication date

  • August 2018


published in