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Systematic parameter reviews in cognitive modeling: Towards a robust and cumulative characterization of psychological processes in the diffusion decision model

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Tran,  N.-Han
Department of Human Behavior Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Tran, N.-H., van Maanen, L., Heathcote, A., & Matzke, D. (2021). Systematic parameter reviews in cognitive modeling: Towards a robust and cumulative characterization of psychological processes in the diffusion decision model. Frontiers in Psychology, 11: 608287. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.608287.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-F4CF-D
Abstract
Parametric cognitive models are increasingly popular tools for analyzing data obtained from psychological experiments. One of the main goals of such models is to formalize psychological theories using parameters that represent distinct psychological processes. We argue that systematic quantitative reviews of parameter estimates can make an important contribution to robust and cumulative cognitive modeling. Parameter reviews can benefit model development and model assessment by providing valuable information about the expected parameter space, and can facilitate the more efficient design of experiments. Importantly, parameter reviews provide crucial—if not indispensable—information for the specification of informative prior distributions in Bayesian cognitive modeling. From the Bayesian perspective, prior distributions are an integral part of a model, reflecting cumulative theoretical knowledge about plausible values of the model's parameters (Lee, 2018). In this paper we illustrate how systematic parameter reviews can be implemented to generate informed prior distributions for the Diffusion Decision Model (DDM; Ratcliff and McKoon, 2008), the most widely used model of speeded decision making. We surveyed the published literature on empirical applications of the DDM, extracted the reported parameter estimates, and synthesized this information in the form of prior distributions. Our parameter review establishes a comprehensive reference resource for plausible DDM parameter values in various experimental paradigms that can guide future applications of the model. Based on the challenges we faced during the parameter review, we formulate a set of general and DDM-specific suggestions aiming to increase reproducibility and the information gained from the review process.