Lose-shift responding in humans is promoted by increased cognitive load

Thumbnail Image
Ivan, Victorita E.
Banks, Parker J.
Goodfellow, Kris
Gruber, Aaron J.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Frontiers Media
The propensity of animals to shift choices immediately after unexpectedly poor reinforcement outcomes is a pervasive strategy across species and tasks. We report here on the memory supporting such lose-shift responding in humans, assessed using a binary choice task in which random responding is the optimal strategy. Participants exhibited little lose-shift responding when fully attending to the task, but this increased by 30%–40% in participants that performed with additional cognitive load that is known to tax executive systems. Lose-shift responding in the cognitively loaded adults persisted throughout the testing session, despite being a sub-optimal strategy, but was less likely as the time increased between reinforcement and the subsequent choice. Furthermore, children (5–9 years old) without load performed similarly to the cognitively loaded adults. This effect disappeared in older children aged 11–13 years old. These data provide evidence supporting our hypothesis that lose-shift responding is a default and reflexive strategy in the mammalian brain, likely mediated by a decaying memory trace, and is normally suppressed by executive systems. Reducing the efficacy of executive control by cognitive load (adults) or underdevelopment (children) increases its prevalence. It may therefore be an important component to consider when interpreting choice data, and may serve as an objective behavioral assay of executive function in humans that is easy to measure.
Sherpa Romeo green journal; open access
Lose-switch , Prefrontal cortex , Adult , Children , Cognitive load , WSLS , Reflexive response , Choice adaptation
Ivan, V. E., Banks, P. J., Goodfellow, K. & Gruber, A. J. (2018). Lose-shift responding in humans is promoted by increased cognitive load. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 12(9). doi:10.3389/fnint.2018.00009