Decisions and learning processes are under metacognitive control, where confidence in one's actions guides future behaviour. Indeed, studies have shown that being more confident results in less action updating and learning, and vice versa. This coupling between action and confidence can be disrupted, as has been found in individuals with high compulsivity symptoms. Patients with Gambling Disorder (GD) have been shown to exhibit both higher confidence and deficits in learning.
In this study, we tested the hypotheses that patients with GD display increased confidence, reduced action updating and lower learning rates. Additionally, we investigated whether the action-confidence coupling was distorted in patients with GD. To address this, 27 patients with GD and 30 control participants performed a predictive inference task designed to assess action and confidence dynamics during learning under volatility. Action-updating, confidence and their coupling were assessed and computational modeling estimated parameters for learning rates, error sensitivity, and sensitivity to environmental changes.
Contrary to our expectations, results revealed no significant group differences in action updating or confidence levels. Nevertheless, GD patients exhibited a weakened coupling between confidence and action, as well as lower learning rates.
Discussion and conclusions
This suggests that patients with GD may underutilize confidence when steering future behavioral choices. Ultimately, these findings point to a disruption of metacognitive control in GD, without a general overconfidence bias in neutral, non-incentivized volatile learning contexts.