Response-related signals increase confidence but not metacognitive performance


Confidence judgments are a central tool in metacognition research. In a typical task, participants first perform perceptual (first-order) decisions and then rate their confidence in these decisions. The relationship between confidence and first-order accuracy is taken as a measure of metacognitive performance. Confidence is often assumed to stem from decision-monitoring processes alone, but processes that co-occur with the first-order decision may also play a role in confidence formation. In fact, some recent studies have revealed that directly manipulating motor regions in the brain, or the time of first-order decisions relative to second-order decisions, affects confidence judgments. This finding suggests that confidence could be informed by a readout of reaction times in addition to decision-monitoring processes. To test this possibility, we assessed the contribution of response-related signals to confidence and, in particular, to metacognitive performance (i.e., a measure of the adequacy of these confidence judgments). In human volunteers, we measured the effect of making an overt (vs covert) decision, as well as the effect of pairing an action to the stimulus about which the first-order decision is made. Against our expectations, we found no differences in overall confidence or metacognitive performance when first-order responses were covert as opposed to overt. Further, actions paired to visual stimuli presented led to higher confidence ratings, but did not affect metacognitive performance. These results suggest that confidence ratings do not always incorporate motor information.