The study of decision-making has mainly focused on isolated decisions where choices are associated with motor actions. However, problem-solving often involves considering a hierarchy of sub-decisions. In a recent study (Lorteije et al. 2015), we reported behavioral and neuronal evidence for hierarchical decision making in a task with a small decision tree. We observed a first phase of parallel evidence integration for multiple sub-decisions, followed by a phase in which the overall strategy formed. It has been suggested that a ’flat’ competition between the ultimate motor actions might also explain these results. A reanalysis of the data does not support the critical predictions of flat models. We also examined the time-course of decision making in other, related tasks and report conditions where evidence integration for successive decisions is decoupled, which excludes flat models. We conclude that the flexibility of decision-making implies that the strategies are genuinely hierarchical.

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Journal eLife
Zylberberg, A, Lorteije, J, Ouellette, B.G, de Zeeuw, C.I, Sigman, M, & Roelfsema, P. (2017). Serial, parallel and hierarchical decision making in primates. eLife, 6. doi:10.7554/eLife.17331