Several influential theories of consciousness attempt to explain how, when and where conscious perception arises in the brain. The extent of conscious perception of a stimulus is often probed by asking subjects to provide confidence estimations in their choices in challenging perceptual decision-making tasks. Here, we aimed to dissociate neural patterns of “cognitive” and “sensory” information maintenance by linking category selective visual processes to decision confidence using multivariate decoding techniques on human EEG data. Participants discriminated at-threshold masked face versus house stimuli and reported confidence in their discrimination performance. Three distinct types of category-selective neural activity patterns were observed, dissociable by their timing, scalp topography, relationship with decision confidence, and generalization profile. An early (~150-200 ms) decoding profile was unrelated to confidence and quickly followed by two distinct decodable patterns of late neural activity (350-500 ms). One pattern was on-diagonal, global and highly related to decision confidence, likely indicating cognitive maintenance of consciously reportable stimulus representations. The other pattern however was off-diagonal, restricted to posterior electrode sites (local), and independent of decision confidence, and therefore may reflect sensory maintenance of categoryspecific information, possibly operating via recurrent processes within visual cortices. These results highlight that two functionally independent neural processes are operating in parallel, only one of which is related to decision confidence and conscious access.
- Decision confidence
- EEG decoding