Piéron's Law and Optimal Behavior in Perceptual Decision-Making

Leendert van Maanen, Raoul P P P Grasman, Birte U Forstmann, Eric-Jan Wagenmakers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Piéron's Law is a psychophysical regularity in signal detection tasks that states that mean response times decrease as a power function of stimulus intensity. In this article, we extend Piéron's Law to perceptual two-choice decision-making tasks, and demonstrate that the law holds as the discriminability between two competing choices is manipulated, even though the stimulus intensity remains constant. This result is consistent with predictions from a Bayesian ideal observer model. The model assumes that in order to respond optimally in a two-choice decision-making task, participants continually update the posterior probability of each response alternative, until the probability of one alternative crosses a criterion value. In addition to predictions for two-choice decision-making tasks, we extend the ideal observer model to predict Piéron's Law in signal detection tasks. We conclude that Piéron's Law is a general phenomenon that may be caused by optimality constraints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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