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Open Access Publications from the University of California

How the cognitive mechanisms underlying fast choices influence information spread and response bias amplification in groups


Behavioural cascades through social reinforcement are ubiquitous in human and animal groups. Nonetheless, we only have a rudimentary understanding of which choices are more likely to initiate cascades. Here we investigate the role of response time (RT) asymmetries (i.e., one choice alternative being selected faster than the other) in shaping behavioural cascades by combining an empirical and modelling approach. RT asymmetries are found in a wide range of decision-making contexts, including police shooting, risky choice, and memory retrieval. How they shape collective dynamics, is, however, unknown. Applying evidence accumulation models to analyse behaviour in a sequential choice paradigm, we show that RT asymmetries crucially shape behavioural cascades. Using simulations, we show that especially start point biases (and to a less extent varying drift rates) can initiate cascades, as they lead to rapid choices for one choice alternative. Our results highlight the importance of RT asymmetries in shaping collective dynamics.

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