Reduced susceptibility to confirmation bias in schizophrenia

  • Bradley B. Doll
  • James A. Waltz
  • Jeffrey Cockburn
  • Jaime K. Brown
  • Michael J. Frank
  • James M. Gold


Patients with schizophrenia (SZ) show cognitive impairments on a wide range of tasks, with clear deficiencies in tasks reliant on prefrontal cortex function and less consistently observed impairments in tasks recruiting the striatum. This study leverages tasks hypothesized to differentially recruit these neural structures to assess relative deficiencies of each. Forty-eight patients and 38 controls completed two reinforcement learning tasks hypothesized to interrogate prefrontal and striatal functions and their interaction. In each task, participants learned reward discriminations by trial and error and were tested on novel stimulus combinations to assess learned values. In the task putatively assessing fronto-striatal interaction, participants were (inaccurately) instructed that one of the stimuli was valuable. Consistent with prior reports and a model of confirmation bias, this manipulation resulted in overvaluation of the instructed stimulus after its true value had been experienced. Patients showed less susceptibility to this confirmation bias effect than did controls. In the choice bias task hypothesized to more purely assess striatal function, biases in endogenously and exogenously chosen actions were assessed. No group differences were observed. In the subset of participants who showed learning in both tasks, larger group differences were observed in the confirmation bias task than in the choice bias task. In the confirmation bias task, patients also showed impairment in the task conditions with no prior instruction. This deficit was most readily observed on the most deterministic discriminations. Taken together, these results suggest impairments in fronto-striatal interaction in SZ, rather than in striatal function per se.


Schizophrenia Reward Decision-making 



This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health R01 MH080066. We thank Dylan A Simon for helpful discussions.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bradley B. Doll
    • 1
    • 2
  • James A. Waltz
    • 3
  • Jeffrey Cockburn
    • 4
  • Jaime K. Brown
    • 3
  • Michael J. Frank
    • 4
  • James M. Gold
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Neural ScienceNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Maryland Psychiatric Research CenterUniversity of Maryland School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological SciencesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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