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2020


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Automatic Discovery of Interpretable Planning Strategies

Skirzyński, J., Becker, F., Lieder, F.

May 2020 (article) Submitted

Abstract
When making decisions, people often overlook critical information or are overly swayed by irrelevant information. A common approach to mitigate these biases is to provide decisionmakers, especially professionals such as medical doctors, with decision aids, such as decision trees and flowcharts. Designing effective decision aids is a difficult problem. We propose that recently developed reinforcement learning methods for discovering clever heuristics for good decision-making can be partially leveraged to assist human experts in this design process. One of the biggest remaining obstacles to leveraging the aforementioned methods for improving human decision-making is that the policies they learn are opaque to people. To solve this problem, we introduce AI-Interpret: a general method for transforming idiosyncratic policies into simple and interpretable descriptions. Our algorithm combines recent advances in imitation learning and program induction with a new clustering method for identifying a large subset of demonstrations that can be accurately described by a simple, high-performing decision rule. We evaluate our new AI-Interpret algorithm and employ it to translate information-acquisition policies discovered through metalevel reinforcement learning. The results of three large behavioral experiments showed that the provision of decision rules as flowcharts significantly improved people’s planning strategies and decisions across three different classes of sequential decision problems. Furthermore, a series of ablation studies confirmed that our AI-Interpret algorithm was critical to the discovery of interpretable decision rules and that it is ready to be applied to other reinforcement learning problems. We conclude that the methods and findings presented in this article are an important step towards leveraging automatic strategy discovery to improve human decision-making.

Automatic Discovery of Interpretable Planning Strategies The code for our algorithm and the experiments is available [BibTex]


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Advancing Rational Analysis to the Algorithmic Level

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 43, E27, March 2020 (article)

Abstract
The commentaries raised questions about normativity, human rationality, cognitive architectures, cognitive constraints, and the scope or resource rational analysis (RRA). We respond to these questions and clarify that RRA is a methodological advance that extends the scope of rational modeling to understanding cognitive processes, why they differ between people, why they change over time, and how they could be improved.

Advancing rational analysis to the algorithmic level DOI [BibTex]

Advancing rational analysis to the algorithmic level DOI [BibTex]


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Learning to Overexert Cognitive Control in a Stroop Task

Bustamante, L., Lieder, F., Musslick, S., Shenhav, A., Cohen, J.

Febuary 2020, Laura Bustamante and Falk Lieder contributed equally to this publication. (article) In revision

Abstract
How do people learn when to allocate how much cognitive control to which task? According to the Learned Value of Control (LVOC) model, people learn to predict the value of alternative control allocations from features of a given situation. This suggests that people may generalize the value of control learned in one situation to other situations with shared features, even when the demands for cognitive control are different. This makes the intriguing prediction that what a person learned in one setting could, under some circumstances, cause them to misestimate the need for, and potentially over-exert control in another setting, even if this harms their performance. To test this prediction, we had participants perform a novel variant of the Stroop task in which, on each trial, they could choose to either name the color (more control-demanding) or read the word (more automatic). However only one of these tasks was rewarded, it changed from trial to trial, and could be predicted by one or more of the stimulus features (the color and/or the word). Participants first learned colors that predicted the rewarded task. Then they learned words that predicted the rewarded task. In the third part of the experiment, we tested how these learned feature associations transferred to novel stimuli with some overlapping features. The stimulus-task-reward associations were designed so that for certain combinations of stimuli the transfer of learned feature associations would incorrectly predict that more highly rewarded task would be color naming, which would require the exertion of control, even though the actually rewarded task was word reading and therefore did not require the engagement of control. Our results demonstrated that participants over-exerted control for these stimuli, providing support for the feature-based learning mechanism described by the LVOC model.

Learning to Overexert Cognitive Control in a Stroop Task DOI [BibTex]

Learning to Overexert Cognitive Control in a Stroop Task DOI [BibTex]


Toward a Formal Theory of Proactivity
Toward a Formal Theory of Proactivity

Lieder, F., Iwama, G.

January 2020 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Beyond merely reacting to their environment and impulses, people have the remarkable capacity to proactively set and pursue their own goals. But the extent to which they leverage this capacity varies widely across people and situations. The goal of this article is to make the mechanisms and variability of proactivity more amenable to rigorous experiments and computational modeling. We proceed in three steps. First, we develop and validate a mathematically precise behavioral measure of proactivity and reactivity that can be applied across a wide range of experimental paradigms. Second, we propose a formal definition of proactivity and reactivity, and develop a computational model of proactivity in the AX Continuous Performance Task (AX-CPT). Third, we develop and test a computational-level theory of meta-control over proactivity in the AX-CPT that identifies three distinct meta-decision-making problems: intention setting, resolving response conflict between intentions and automaticity, and deciding whether to recall context and intentions into working memory. People's response frequencies in the AX-CPT were remarkably well captured by a mixture between the predictions of our models of proactive and reactive control. Empirical data from an experiment varying the incentives and contextual load of an AX-CPT confirmed the predictions of our meta-control model of individual differences in proactivity. Our results suggest that proactivity can be understood in terms of computational models of meta-control. Our model makes additional empirically testable predictions. Future work will extend our models from proactive control in the AX-CPT to proactive goal creation and goal pursuit in the real world.

Toward a formal theory of proactivity DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2019


Life Improvement Science: A Manifesto
Life Improvement Science: A Manifesto

Lieder, F.

December 2019 (article) In revision

Abstract
Rapid technological advances present unprecedented opportunities for helping people thrive. This manifesto presents a road map for establishing a solid scientific foundation upon which those opportunities can be realized. It highlights fundamental open questions about the cognitive underpinnings of effective living and how they can be improved, supported, and augmented. These questions are at the core of my proposal for a new transdisciplinary research area called life improvement science. Recent advances have made these questions amenable to scientific rigor, and emerging approaches are paving the way towards practical strategies, clever interventions, and (intelligent) apps for empowering people to reach unprecedented levels of personal effectiveness and wellbeing.

Life improvement science: a manifesto DOI [BibTex]


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Doing More with Less: Meta-Reasoning and Meta-Learning in Humans and Machines

Griffiths, T. L., Callaway, F., Chang, M. B., Grant, E., Krueger, P. M., Lieder, F.

Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 29, pages: 24-30, October 2019 (article)

Abstract
Artificial intelligence systems use an increasing amount of computation and data to solve very specific problems. By contrast, human minds solve a wide range of problems using a fixed amount of computation and limited experience. We identify two abilities that we see as crucial to this kind of general intelligence: meta-reasoning (deciding how to allocate computational resources) and meta-learning (modeling the learning environment to make better use of limited data). We summarize the relevant AI literature and relate the resulting ideas to recent work in psychology.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Cognitive Prostheses for Goal Achievement
Cognitive Prostheses for Goal Achievement

Lieder, F., Chen, O. X., Krueger, P. M., Griffiths, T. L.

Nature Human Behavior, 3, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Procrastination and impulsivity take a significant toll on people’s lives and the economy at large. Both can result from the misalignment of an action's proximal rewards with its long-term value. Therefore, aligning immediate reward with long-term value could be a way to help people overcome motivational barriers and make better decisions. Previous research has shown that game elements, such as points, levels, and badges, can be used to motivate people and nudge their decisions on serious matters. Here, we develop a new approach to decision support that leveragesartificial intelligence and game elements to restructure challenging sequential decision problems in such a way that it becomes easier for people to take the right course of action. A series of four increasingly more realistic experiments suggests that this approach can enable people to make better decisions faster, procrastinate less, complete their work on time, and waste less time on unimportant tasks. These findings suggest that our method is a promising step towards developing cognitive prostheses that help people achieve their goals by enhancing their motivation and decision-making in everyday life.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Resource-rational analysis: Understanding human cognition as the optimal use of limited computational resources

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 43, E1, Febuary 2019 (article)

Abstract
Modeling human cognition is challenging because there are infinitely many mechanisms that can generate any given observation. Some researchers address this by constraining the hypothesis space through assumptions about what the human mind can and cannot do, while others constrain it through principles of rationality and adaptation. Recent work in economics, psychology, neuroscience, and linguistics has begun to integrate both approaches by augmenting rational models with cognitive constraints, incorporating rational principles into cognitive architectures, and applying optimality principles to understanding neural representations. We identify the rational use of limited resources as a unifying principle underlying these diverse approaches, expressing it in a new cognitive modeling paradigm called resource-rational analysis. The integration of rational principles with realistic cognitive constraints makes resource-rational analysis a promising framework for reverse-engineering cognitive mechanisms and representations. It has already shed new light on the debate about human rationality and can be leveraged to revisit classic questions of cognitive psychology within a principled computational framework. We demonstrate that resource-rational models can reconcile the mind's most impressive cognitive skills with people's ostensive irrationality. Resource-rational analysis also provides a new way to connect psychological theory more deeply with artificial intelligence, economics, neuroscience, and linguistics.

DOI [BibTex]


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Spatial Continuity Effect vs. Spatial Contiguity Failure. Revising the Effects of Spatial Proximity Between Related and Unrelated Representations

Beege, M., Wirzberger, M., Nebel, S., Schneider, S., Schmidt, N., Rey, G. D.

Frontiers in Education, 4:86, 2019 (article)

Abstract
The split-attention effect refers to learning with related representations in multimedia. Spatial proximity and integration of these representations are crucial for learning processes. The influence of varying amounts of proximity between related and unrelated information has not yet been specified. In two experiments (N1 = 98; N2 = 85), spatial proximity between a pictorial presentation and text labels was manipulated (high vs. medium vs. low). Additionally, in experiment 1, a control group with separated picture and text presentation was implemented. The results revealed a significant effect of spatial proximity on learning performance. In contrast to previous studies, the medium condition leads to the highest transfer, and in experiment 2, the highest retention score. These results are interpreted considering cognitive load and instructional efficiency. Findings indicate that transfer efficiency is optimal at a medium distance between representations in experiment 1. Implications regarding the spatial contiguity principle and the spatial contiguity failure are discussed.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


A Rational Reinterpretation of Dual Process Theories
A Rational Reinterpretation of Dual Process Theories

Milli, S., Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

2019 (article)

Abstract
Highly influential "dual-process" accounts of human cognition postulate the coexistence of a slow accurate system with a fast error-prone system. But why would there be just two systems rather than, say, one or 93? Here, we argue that a dual-process architecture might be neither arbitrary nor irrational, but might instead reflect a rational tradeoff between the cognitive flexibility afforded by multiple systems and the time and effort required to choose between them. We investigate what the optimal set and number of cognitive systems would be depending on the structure of the environment. We find that the optimal number of systems depends on the variability of the environment and the difficulty of deciding when which system should be used. Furthermore, when having two systems is optimal, then the first system is fast but error-prone and the second system is slow but accurate. Our findings thereby provide a rational reinterpretation of dual-process theories.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2018


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Rational metareasoning and the plasticity of cognitive control

Lieder, F., Shenhav, A., Musslick, S., Griffiths, T. L.

PLOS Computational Biology, 14(4):e1006043, Public Library of Science, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
The human brain has the impressive capacity to adapt how it processes information to high-level goals. While it is known that these cognitive control skills are malleable and can be improved through training, the underlying plasticity mechanisms are not well understood. Here, we develop and evaluate a model of how people learn when to exert cognitive control, which controlled process to use, and how much effort to exert. We derive this model from a general theory according to which the function of cognitive control is to select and configure neural pathways so as to make optimal use of finite time and limited computational resources. The central idea of our Learned Value of Control model is that people use reinforcement learning to predict the value of candidate control signals of different types and intensities based on stimulus features. This model correctly predicts the learning and transfer effects underlying the adaptive control-demanding behavior observed in an experiment on visual attention and four experiments on interference control in Stroop and Flanker paradigms. Moreover, our model explained these findings significantly better than an associative learning model and a Win-Stay Lose-Shift model. Our findings elucidate how learning and experience might shape people’s ability and propensity to adaptively control their minds and behavior. We conclude by predicting under which circumstances these learning mechanisms might lead to self-control failure.

Rational metareasoning and the plasticity of cognitive control DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

2018

Rational metareasoning and the plasticity of cognitive control DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Over-Representation of Extreme Events in Decision Making Reflects Rational Use of Cognitive Resources

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L., Hsu, M.

Psychological Review, 125(1):1-32, January 2018 (article)

Abstract
People’s decisions and judgments are disproportionately swayed by improbable but extreme eventualities, such as terrorism, that come to mind easily. This article explores whether such availability biases can be reconciled with rational information processing by taking into account the fact that decision-makers value their time and have limited cognitive resources. Our analysis suggests that to make optimal use of their finite time decision-makers should over-represent the most important potential consequences relative to less important, put potentially more probable, outcomes. To evaluate this account we derive and test a model we call utility-weighted sampling. Utility-weighted sampling estimates the expected utility of potential actions by simulating their outcomes. Critically, outcomes with more extreme utilities have a higher probability of being simulated. We demonstrate that this model can explain not only people’s availability bias in judging the frequency of extreme events but also a wide range of cognitive biases in decisions from experience, decisions from description, and memory recall.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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The Computational Challenges of Pursuing Multiple Goals: Network Structure of Goal Systems Predicts Human Performance

Reichman, D., Lieder, F., Bourgin, D. D., Talmon, N., Griffiths, T. L.

PsyArXiv, 2018 (article)

Abstract
Extant psychological theories attribute people’s failure to achieve their goals primarily to failures of self-control, insufficient motivation, or lacking skills. We develop a complementary theory specifying conditions under which the computational complexity of making the right decisions becomes prohibitive of goal achievement regardless of skill or motivation. We support our theory by predicting human performance from factors determining the computational complexity of selecting the optimal set of means for goal achievement. Following previous theories of goal pursuit, we express the relationship between goals and means as a bipartite graph where edges between means and goals indicate which means can be used to achieve which goals. This allows us to map two computational challenges that arise in goal achievement onto two classic combinatorial optimization problems: Set Cover and Maximum Coverage. While these problems are believed to be computationally intractable on general networks, their solution can be nevertheless efficiently approximated when the structure of the network resembles a tree. Thus, our initial prediction was that people should perform better with goal systems that are more tree-like. In addition, our theory predicted that people’s performance at selecting means should be a U-shaped function of the average number of goals each means is relevant to and the average number of means through which each goal could be accomplished. Here we report on six behavioral experiments which confirmed these predictions. Our results suggest that combinatorial parameters that are instrumental to algorithm design can also be useful for understanding when and why people struggle to pursue their goals effectively.

DOI [BibTex]

2017


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Strategy selection as rational metareasoning

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

Psychological Review, 124, pages: 762-794, American Psychological Association, November 2017 (article)

Abstract
Many contemporary accounts of human reasoning assume that the mind is equipped with multiple heuristics that could be deployed to perform a given task. This raises the question of how the mind determines when to use which heuristic. To answer this question, we developed a rational model of strategy selection, based on the theory of rational metareasoning developed in the artificial intelligence literature. According to our model people learn to efficiently choose the strategy with the best cost–benefit tradeoff by learning a predictive model of each strategy’s performance. We found that our model can provide a unifying explanation for classic findings from domains ranging from decision-making to arithmetic by capturing the variability of people’s strategy choices, their dependence on task and context, and their development over time. Systematic model comparisons supported our theory, and 4 new experiments confirmed its distinctive predictions. Our findings suggest that people gradually learn to make increasingly more rational use of fallible heuristics. This perspective reconciles the 2 poles of the debate about human rationality by integrating heuristics and biases with learning and rationality. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2017

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Empirical Evidence for Resource-Rational Anchoring and Adjustment

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L., Huys, Q. J. M., Goodman, N. D.

Psychonomic Bulletin \& Review, 25, pages: 775-784, Springer, May 2017 (article)

Abstract
People’s estimates of numerical quantities are systematically biased towards their initial guess. This anchoring bias is usually interpreted as sign of human irrationality, but it has recently been suggested that the anchoring bias instead results from people’s rational use of their finite time and limited cognitive resources. If this were true, then adjustment should decrease with the relative cost of time. To test this hypothesis, we designed a new numerical estimation paradigm that controls people’s knowledge and varies the cost of time and error independently while allowing people to invest as much or as little time and effort into refining their estimate as they wish. Two experiments confirmed the prediction that adjustment decreases with time cost but increases with error cost regardless of whether the anchor was self-generated or provided. These results support the hypothesis that people rationally adapt their number of adjustments to achieve a near-optimal speed-accuracy tradeoff. This suggests that the anchoring bias might be a signature of the rational use of finite time and limited cognitive resources rather than a sign of human irrationality.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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A computerized training program for teaching people how to plan better

Lieder, F., Krueger, P. M., Callaway, F., Griffiths, T. L.

PsyArXiv, 2017 (article)

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Toward a rational and mechanistic account of mental effort

Shenhav, A., Musslick, S., Lieder, F., Kool, W., Griffiths, T., Cohen, J., Botvinick, M.

Annual Review of Neuroscience, 40, pages: 99-124, Annual Reviews, 2017 (article)

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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The anchoring bias reflects rational use of cognitive resources

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L., Huys, Q. J. M., Goodman, N. D.

Psychonomic Bulletin \& Review, 25, pages: 762-794, Springer, 2017 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2015


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Model-Based Strategy Selection Learning

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

The 2nd Multidisciplinary Conference on Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making, 2015 (article)

Abstract
Humans possess a repertoire of decision strategies. This raises the question how we decide how to decide. Behavioral experiments suggest that the answer includes metacognitive reinforcement learning: rewards reinforce not only our behavior but also the cognitive processes that lead to it. Previous theories of strategy selection, namely SSL and RELACS, assumed that model-free reinforcement learning identifies the cognitive strategy that works best on average across all problems in the environment. Here we explore the alternative: model-based reinforcement learning about how the differential effectiveness of cognitive strategies depends on the features of individual problems. Our theory posits that people learn a predictive model of each strategy’s accuracy and execution time and choose strategies according to their predicted speed-accuracy tradeoff for the problem to be solved. We evaluate our theory against previous accounts by fitting published data on multi-attribute decision making, conducting a novel experiment, and demonstrating that our theory can account for people’s adaptive flexibility in risky choice. We find that while SSL and RELACS are sufficient to explain people’s ability to adapt to a homogeneous environment in which all decision problems are of the same type, model-based strategy selection learning can also explain people’s ability to adapt to heterogeneous environments and flexibly switch to a different decision-strategy when the situation changes.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2015

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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The optimism bias may support rational action

Lieder, F., Goel, S., Kwan, R., Griffiths, T. L.

NIPS 2015 Workshop on Bounded Optimality and Rational Metareasoning, 2015 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Rational use of cognitive resources: Levels of analysis between the computational and the algorithmic

Griffiths, T. L., Lieder, F., Goodman, N. D.

Topics in Cognitive Science, 7(2):217-229, Wiley, 2015 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2013


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Modelling trial-by-trial changes in the mismatch negativity

Lieder, F., Daunizeau, J., Garrido, M. I., Friston, K. J., Stephan, K. E.

{PLoS} {C}omputational {B}iology, 9(2):e1002911, Public Library of Science, 2013 (article)

[BibTex]

2013

[BibTex]


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A neurocomputational model of the mismatch negativity

Lieder, F., Stephan, K. E., Daunizeau, J., Garrido, M. I., Friston, K. J.

{PLoS Computational Biology}, 9(11):e1003288, Public Library of Science, 2013 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2012


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Burn-in, bias, and the rationality of anchoring

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L., Goodman, N. D.

Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 25, pages: 2699-2707, 2012 (article)

Abstract
Bayesian inference provides a unifying framework for addressing problems in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotics, as well as the problems facing the human mind. Unfortunately, exact Bayesian inference is intractable in all but the simplest models. Therefore minds and machines have to approximate Bayesian inference. Approximate inference algorithms can achieve a wide range of time-accuracy tradeoffs, but what is the optimal tradeoff? We investigate time-accuracy tradeoffs using the Metropolis-Hastings algorithm as a metaphor for the mind's inference algorithm(s). We find that reasonably accurate decisions are possible long before the Markov chain has converged to the posterior distribution, i.e. during the period known as burn-in. Therefore the strategy that is optimal subject to the mind's bounded processing speed and opportunity costs may perform so few iterations that the resulting samples are biased towards the initial value. The resulting cognitive process model provides a rational basis for the anchoring-and-adjustment heuristic. The model's quantitative predictions are tested against published data on anchoring in numerical estimation tasks. Our theoretical and empirical results suggest that the anchoring bias is consistent with approximate Bayesian inference.

link (url) [BibTex]

2012

link (url) [BibTex]

2006


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Die Effektivität von schriftlichen und graphischen Warnhinweisen auf Zigarettenschachteln

Petersen, L., Lieder, F.

Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie, 37(4):245-258, Verlag Hans Huber, 2006 (article)

Abstract
In der vorliegenden Studie wurde die Effektivität von furchterregenden Warnhinweisen bei jugendlichen Rauchern und Raucherinnen analysiert. 336 Raucher/-innen (Durchschnittsalter: 15 Jahre) wurden schriftliche oder graphische Warnhinweise auf Zigarettenpackungen präsentiert (Experimentalbedingungen; n = 96, n = 119), oder sie erhielten keine Warnhinweise (Kontrollbedingung; n = 94). Anschließend wurden die Modellfaktoren des revidierten Modells der Schutzmotivation (Arthur & Quester, 2004) erhoben. Die Ergebnisse stützen die Hypothese, dass die Faktoren «Schweregrad der Schädigung» und «Wahrscheinlichkeit der Schädigung» die Verhaltenswahrscheinlichkeit, weniger oder leichtere Zigaretten zu rauchen, vermittelt über den Mediator «Furcht» beeinflussen. Die Verhaltenswahrscheinlichkeit wurde dagegen nicht von den drei experimentellen Bedingungen beeinflusst. Auch konnten die Faktoren «Handlungswirksamkeitserwartungen» und «Selbstwirksamkeitserwartungen» nicht als Moderatoren des Zusammenhangs zwischen Furcht und Verhaltenswahrscheinlichkeit bestätigt werden.

DOI [BibTex]

2006

DOI [BibTex]