Are individual differences quantitative or qualitative? An integrated behavioral and fMRI MIMIC approach

Jacqueline N. Zadelaar*, Wouter D. Weeda, Lourens J. Waldorp, Anna C.K. Van Duijvenvoorde, Neeltje E. Blankenstein, Hilde M. Huizenga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In cognitive neuroscience there is a growing interest in individual differences. We propose the Multiple Indicators Multiple Causes (MIMIC) model of combined behavioral and fMRI data to determine whether such differences are quantitative or qualitative in nature. A simulation study revealed the MIMIC model to have adequate power for this goal, and parameter recovery to be satisfactory. The MIMIC model was illustrated with a re-analysis of Van Duijvenvoorde et al. (2016) and Blankenstein et al. (2018) decision making data. This showed individual differences in Van Duijvenvoorde et al. (2016) to originate in qualitative differences in decision strategies. Parameters indicated some individuals to use an expected value decision strategy, while others used a loss minimizing strategy, distinguished by individual differences in vmPFC activity. Individual differences in Blankenstein et al. (2018) were explained by quantitative differences in risk aversion. Parameters showed that more risk averse individuals preferred safe over risky choices, as predicted by heightened vmPFC activity. We advocate using the MIMIC model to empirically determine, rather than assume, the nature of individual differences in combined behavioral and fMRI datasets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116058
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Decision strategies
  • Individual differences
  • Latent variable analysis
  • MIMIC model
  • vmPFC


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