Psychological Research

, Volume 79, Issue 1, pp 83–94 | Cite as

Time pressure affects the efficiency of perceptual processing in decisions under conflict

  • Michael DambacherEmail author
  • Ronald Hübner
Original Article


The negative correlation between speed and accuracy in perceptual decision making is often explained as a tradeoff, where lowered decision boundaries under time pressure result in faster but more error-prone responses. Corresponding implementations in sequential sampling models confirmed the success of this account, which has led to the prevalent assumption that a second component of decision making, the efficiency of perceptual processing, is largely independent from temporal demands. To test the generality of this claim, we examined time pressure effects on decisions under conflict. Data from a flanker task were fit with a sequential sampling model that incorporates two successive phases of response selection, driven by the output of an early and late stage of stimulus selection, respectively. The fits revealed the canonical decrease of response boundaries with increasing time pressure. In addition, time pressure reduced the duration of non-decisional processes and impaired the early stage of stimulus selection, together with the subsequent first phase of response selection. The results show that the relation between speed and accuracy not only relies on the strategic adjustment of response boundaries but involves variations of processing efficiency. The findings support recent evidence of drift rate modulations in response to time pressure in simple perceptual decisions and confirm their validity in the context of more complex tasks.


Time Pressure Response Selection Congruency Effect Drift Rate Incongruent Condition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Michaela Rach for data acquisition and Leendert van Maanen for valuable comments on a previous version of this article. This research was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through research unit FOR 1882 Psychoeconomics.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology (Box D29)Universität KonstanzConstanceGermany

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