August 2009
Volume 9, Issue 8
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2009
Structure learning in sequential decision making
Author Affiliations
  • Paul Schrater
    Department of Computer Science, University of Minnesota, and Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota
  • Daniel Acuna
    Department of Computer Science, University of Minnesota
Journal of Vision August 2009, Vol.9, 829. doi:
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      Paul Schrater, Daniel Acuna; Structure learning in sequential decision making. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):829.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Human behavior in binary choice tasks can strongly deviate from normative predictions, even in simple repeated tasks with independent trials. Rather than reflecting decision-making errors (as most previous accounts have assumed), we propose that people try to learn causal models of both environment and task that explain how the outcome statistics are generated, or in other words, to reduce unexplained variability in outcome. We show that optimal decision making models that try to learn the structure of the environment show the same kinds of suboptimality. In particular, models that try to learn environmental dynamics (non-stationarity) and reward outcome generation capture many aspects of choice behavior deemed suboptimal, like limited memory, probability matching, and under and over-exploration. We show how probabilistic coupling between rewarding options can be learned, and how models that learn better capture human behavior in choice tasks. We also show how models that learn dynamics can benefit from making strong prior assumptions about the stochasticity of the environment.

Schrater, P. Acuna, D. (2009). Structure learning in sequential decision making [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 9(8):829, 829a,, doi:10.1167/9.8.829. [CrossRef]
 This work was supported by ONR N 00014-07-1-0937, and NIH Neuro-physical-computational Sciences (NPCS) Graduate Training Fellowship.

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