Hidden Markov Models of Evidence Accumulation in Speeded Decision Tasks

Šimon Kucharský*, N. Han Tran, Karel Veldkamp, Maartje Raijmakers, Ingmar Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Speeded decision tasks are usually modeled within the evidence accumulation framework, enabling inferences on latent cognitive parameters, and capturing dependencies between the observed response times and accuracy. An example is the speed-accuracy trade-off, where people sacrifice speed for accuracy (or vice versa). Different views on this phenomenon lead to the idea that participants may not be able to control this trade-off on a continuum, but rather switch between distinct states (Dutilh et al., Cognitive Science 35(2):211–250, 2010). Hidden Markov models are used to account for switching between distinct states. However, combining evidence accumulation models with a hidden Markov structure is a challenging problem, as evidence accumulation models typically come with identification and computational issues that make them challenging on their own. Thus, an integration of hidden Markov models with evidence accumulation models has still remained elusive, even though such models would allow researchers to capture potential dependencies between response times and accuracy within the states, while concomitantly capturing different behavioral modes during cognitive processing. This article presents a model that uses an evidence accumulation model as part of a hidden Markov structure. This model is considered as a proof of principle that evidence accumulation models can be combined with Markov switching models. As such, the article considers a very simple case of a simplified Linear Ballistic Accumulation. An extensive simulation study was conducted to validate the model’s implementation according to principles of robust Bayesian workflow. Example reanalysis of data from Dutilh et al. (Cognitive Science 35(2):211–250, 2010) demonstrates the application of the new model. The article concludes with limitations and future extensions or alternatives to the model and its application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-441
Number of pages26
JournalComputational Brain and Behavior
Issue number4
Early online date14 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Šimon Kucharský was supported by the NWO (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) grant no. 406.10.559.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Evidence accumulation
  • Hidden Markov models
  • Phase transition
  • Response times
  • Speed-accuracy trade-off
  • Speeded decision


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