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Intraparietal stimulation disrupts negative distractor effects in human multi-alternative decision-making


Kohl, Carmen et al. (2023), Intraparietal stimulation disrupts negative distractor effects in human multi-alternative decision-making, Dryad, Dataset,


There has been debate about whether addition of an irrelevant distractor option to an otherwise binary decision influences which of the two choices is taken. We show that disparate views on this question are reconciled if distractors exert two opposing but not mutually exclusive effects. Each effect predominates in a different part of decision space: 1) a positive distractor effect predicts high-value distractors improve decision-making; 2) a negative distractor effect, of the type associated with divisive normalisation models, entails decreased accuracy with increased distractor values. Here, we demonstrate both distractor effects coexist in human decision making but in different parts of a decision space defined by the choice values. We show disruption of the medial intraparietal area (MIP) by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) increases positive distractor effects at the expense of negative distractor effects. Furthermore, individuals with larger MIP volumes are also less susceptible to the disruption induced by TMS. These findings also demonstrate a causal link between MIP and the impact of distractors on decision-making via divisive normalisation.

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To run the scripts included in this repository, MATLAB and VBA toolbox ( are required. The scripts included were written and run using MATLAB R2018a.


Research Grants Council, University Grants Committee, Award: 15603517

State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science

Wellcome Trust, Award: 221794/Z/20/Z