Embodied Choice: How Action Influences Perceptual Decision Making

Nathan Lepora, Giovanni Pezzulo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

125 Citations (Scopus)
472 Downloads (Pure)


Embodied Choice considers action performance as a proper part of the decision making process rather than merely as a means to report the decision. The central statement of embodied choice is the existence of bidirectional influences between action and decisions. This implies that for a decision expressed by an action, the action dynamics and its constraints (e.g. current trajectory and kinematics) influence the decision making process. Here we use a perceptual decision making task to compare three types of model: a serial decision-then-action model, a parallel decision-and-action model, and an embodied choice model where the action feeds back into the decision making. The embodied model incorporates two key mechanisms that together are lacking in the other models: action preparation and commitment. First, action preparation strategies alleviate delays in enacting a choice but also modify decision termination. Second, action dynamics change the prospects and create a commitment effect to the initially preferred choice. Our results show that these two mechanisms make embodied choice models better suited to combine decision and action appropriately to achieve suitably fast and accurate responses, as usually required in ecologically valid situations. Moreover, embodied choice models with these mechanisms give a better account of trajectory tracking experiments during decision making. In conclusion, the embodied choice framework offers a combined theory of decision and action that gives a clear case that embodied phenomena such as the dynamics of actions can have a causal influence on central cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004110
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number4
Early online date6 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2015


  • Decision making
  • Theoretical ecology
  • Sensory perception
  • Cognition
  • Decision theory
  • Lions
  • Simulation and modeling
  • Control systems


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