Modeling 2-alternative forced-choice tasks: Accounting for both magnitude and difference effects

Roger Ratcliff, Chelsea Voskuilen, Andrei Teodorescu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a model-based analysis of two-alternative forced-choice tasks in which two stimuli are presented side by side and subjects must make a comparative judgment (e.g., which stimulus is brighter). Stimuli can vary on two dimensions, the difference in strength of the two stimuli and the magnitude of each stimulus. Differences between the two stimuli produce typical RT and accuracy effects (i.e., subjects respond more quickly and more accurately when there is a larger difference between the two). However, the overall magnitude of the pair of stimuli also affects RT and accuracy. In the more common two-choice task, a single stimulus is presented and the stimulus varies on only one dimension. In this two-stimulus task, if the standard diffusion decision model is fit to the data with only drift rate (evidence accumulation rate) differing among conditions, the model cannot fit the data. However, if either of one of two variability parameters is allowed to change with stimulus magnitude, the model can fit the data. This results in two models that are extremely constrained with about one tenth of the number of parameters than there are data points while at the same time the models account for accuracy and correct and error RT distributions. While both of these versions of the diffusion model can account for the observed data, the model that allows across-trial variability in drift to vary might be preferred for theoretical reasons. The diffusion model fits are compared to the leaky competing accumulator model which did not perform as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalCognitive Psychology
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • 2AFC task
  • Diffusion model
  • LCA
  • Response time models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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