Commun Biol. 2023 Aug 24;6(1):871. doi: 10.1038/s42003-023-05199-x.
Expectations are often dynamic: sports fans know that expectations are rapidly updated as games unfold. Yet expectations have traditionally been studied as static. Here we present behavioral and electrophysiological evidence of sub-second changes in expectations using slot machines as a case study. In Study 1, we demonstrate that EEG signal before the slot machine stops varies based on proximity to winning. Study 2 introduces a behavioral paradigm to measure dynamic expectations via betting, and shows that expectation trajectories vary as a function of winning proximity. Notably, these expectation trajectories parallel Study 1’s EEG activity. Studies 3 (EEG) and 4 (behavioral) replicate these findings in the loss domain. These four studies provide compelling evidence that dynamic sub-second updates in expectations can be behaviorally and electrophysiologically measured. Our research opens promising avenues for understanding the dynamic nature of reward expectations and their impact on cognitive processes.