British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology

The counterintuitive impact of responses and response times on parameter estimates in the drift diffusion model

Early View

Given a drift diffusion model with unknown drift and boundary parameters, we analyse the behaviour of maximum likelihood estimates with respect to changes of responses and response times. It is shown analytically that a single fast response time can dominate the estimation in that no matter how many correct answers a test taker provides, the estimate of the drift (ability) parameter decreases to zero. In addition, it is shown that although higher drift rates imply shorter response times, the reverse implication does not hold for the estimates: shorter response times can decrease the drift rate estimate. In the light of these analytical results, we illustrate the actual impact of the findings in a small simulation for a mental rotation test. The method of analysis outlined is applicable to a broader range of models, and we emphasize the need to further check currently used reaction time models within this framework.

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