People often make perceptual decisions with ambiguous information, but it remains unclear whether the brain has a common neural substrate that encodes various forms of perceptual ambiguity. Here, we used three types of perceptually ambiguous stimuli as well as task instructions to examine the neural basis for both stimulus-driven and task-driven perceptual ambiguity. We identified a neural signature, the late positive potential (LPP), that encoded a general form of stimulus-driven perceptual ambiguity. In addition to stimulus-driven ambiguity, the LPP was also modulated by ambiguity in task instructions. To further specify the functional role of the LPP and elucidate the relationship between stimulus ambiguity, behavioral response, and the LPP, we employed regression models and found that the LPP was specifically associated with response latency and confidence rating, suggesting that the LPP encoded decisions under perceptual ambiguity. Finally, direct behavioral ratings of stimulus and task ambiguity confirmed our neurophysiological findings, which could not be attributed to differences in eye movements either. Together, our findings argue for a common neural signature that encodes decisions under perceptual ambiguity but is subject to the modulation of task ambiguity. Our results represent an essential first step toward a complete neural understanding of human perceptual decision making.
- Late positive potential