Which information is worth considering depends on how much effort it would take to acquire and process it. From this perspective people’s tendency to neglect considering the long-term consequences of their actions (present bias) might reflect that looking further into the future becomes increasingly more effortful. In this work, we introduce and validate the use of Bayesian Inverse Reinforcement Learning (BIRL) for measuring individual differences in the subjective costs of planning. We extend the resource-rational model of human planning introduced by Callaway, Lieder, et al. (2018) by parameterizing the cost of planning. Using BIRL, we show that increased subjective cost for considering future outcomes may be associated with both the present bias and acting without planning. Our results highlight testing the causal effects of the cost of planning on both present bias and mental effort avoidance as a promising direction for future work.
CogSci 2020, July 2020, Anirudha Kemtur and Yash Raj Jain contributed equally to this publication. (conference)
Teaching clever heuristics is a promising approach to improve decision-making. We can leverage machine learning to discover clever strategies automatically. Current methods require an accurate model of the decision problems people face in real life. But most models are misspecified because of limited information and cognitive biases. To address this problem we develop strategy discovery methods that are robust to model misspecification. Robustness is achieved by model-ing model-misspecification and handling uncertainty about the real-world according to Bayesian inference. We translate our methods into an intelligent tutor that automatically discovers and teaches robust planning strategies. Our robust cognitive tutor significantly improved human decision-making when the model was so biased that conventional cognitive tutors were no longer effective. These findings highlight that our robust strategy discovery methods are a significant step towards leveraging artificial intelligence to improve human decision-making in the real world.
Conference on Cognitive Computational Neuroscience, September 2019 (conference)
How does the brain learn how to plan? We reverse-engineer people's underlying learning mechanisms by combining rational process models of cognitive plasticity with recently developed empirical methods that allow us to trace the temporal evolution of people's planning strategies. We find that our Learned Value of Computation model (LVOC) accurately captures people's average learning curve. However, there were also substantial individual differences in metacognitive learning that are best understood in terms of multiple different learning mechanisms-including strategy selection learning. Furthermore, we observed that LVOC could not fully capture people's ability to adaptively decide when to stop planning. We successfully extended the LVOC model to address these discrepancies. Our models broadly capture people's ability to improve their decision mechanisms and represent a significant step towards reverse-engineering how the brain learns increasingly effective cognitive strategies through its interaction with the environment.
41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, July 2019 (conference)
The human mind has an unparalleled ability to acquire complex cognitive skills, discover new strategies, and refine its ways of thinking and decision-making; these phenomena are collectively known as cognitive plasticity. One important manifestation of cognitive plasticity is learning to make better–more far-sighted–decisions via planning. A serious obstacle to studying how people learn how to plan is that cognitive plasticity is even more difficult to observe than cognitive strategies are. To address this problem, we develop a computational microscope for measuring cognitive plasticity and validate it on simulated and empirical data. Our approach employs a process tracing paradigm recording signatures of human planning and how they change over time. We then invert a generative model of the recorded changes to infer the underlying cognitive plasticity. Our computational microscope measures cognitive plasticity significantly more accurately than simpler approaches, and it correctly detected the effect of an external manipulation known to promote cognitive plasticity. We illustrate how computational microscopes can be used to gain new insights into the time course of metacognitive learning and to test theories of cognitive development and hypotheses about the nature of cognitive plasticity. Future work will leverage our computational microscope to reverse-engineer the learning mechanisms enabling people to acquire complex cognitive skills such as planning and problem solving.
RLDM 2019, July 2019, Falk Lieder and Frederick Callaway contributed equally to this publication. (conference)
People's reliance on suboptimal heuristics gives rise to a plethora of cognitive biases in decision-making including the present bias, which denotes people's tendency to be overly swayed by an action's immediate costs/benefits rather than its more important long-term consequences. One approach to helping people overcome such biases is to teach them better decision strategies. But which strategies should we teach them? And how can we teach them effectively? Here, we leverage an automatic method for discovering rational heuristics and insights into how people acquire cognitive skills to develop an intelligent tutor that teaches people how to make better decisions. As a proof of concept, we derive the optimal planning strategy for a simple model of situations where people fall prey to the present bias. Our cognitive tutor teaches people this optimal planning strategy by giving them metacognitive feedback on how they plan in a 3-step sequential decision-making task. Our tutor's feedback is designed to maximally accelerate people's metacognitive reinforcement learning towards the optimal planning strategy. A series of four experiments confirmed that training with the cognitive tutor significantly reduced present bias and improved people's decision-making competency: Experiment 1 demonstrated that the cognitive tutor's feedback can help participants discover far-sighted planning strategies. Experiment 2 found that this training effect transfers to more complex environments. Experiment 3 found that these transfer effects are retained for at least 24 hours after the training. Finally, Experiment 4 found that practicing with the cognitive tutor can have additional benefits over being told the strategy in words. The results suggest that promoting metacognitive reinforcement learning with optimal feedback is a promising approach to improving the human mind.
Our goal is to understand the principles of Perception, Action and Learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems