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re Benjamin Prystawski
Benjamin Prystawski
Bachelor's Student Intern
re Florian Mohnert
re Aashay Mehta
Aashay Mehta
Bachelor's Student Intern
re Saksham Consul
Saksham Consul
Bachelor's Student Intern
re Anirudha Kemtur
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Sanit Gupta
Alumni
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re Valkyrie Felso
Valkyrie Felso
Ph.D. Student
re Gabriela Iwama
re Falk Lieder
Falk Lieder
Max Planck Research Group Leader
17 results

2020


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Measuring the Costs of Planning

Felso, V., Jain, Y. R., Lieder, F.

CogSci 2020, July 2020 (poster) Accepted

Abstract
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.

Project Page Project Page [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]


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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 Project Page [BibTex]

2019


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Testing Computational Models of Goal Pursuit

Mohnert, F., Tosic, M., Lieder, F.

CCN2019, September 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Goals are essential to human cognition and behavior. But how do we pursue them? To address this question, we model how capacity limits on planning and attention shape the computational mechanisms of human goal pursuit. We test the predictions of a simple model based on previous theories in a behavioral experiment. The results show that to fully capture how people pursue their goals it is critical to account for people’s limited attention in addition to their limited planning. Our findings elucidate the cognitive constraints that shape human goal pursuit and point to an improved model of human goal pursuit that can reliably predict which goals a person will achieve and which goals they will struggle to pursue effectively.

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


How do people learn how to plan?
How do people learn how to plan?

Jain, Y. R., Gupta, S., Rakesh, V., Dayan, P., Callaway, F., Lieder, F.

Conference on Cognitive Computational Neuroscience, September 2019 (conference)

Abstract
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.

How do people learn to plan? How do people learn to plan? Project Page [BibTex]

How do people learn to plan? How do people learn to plan? Project Page [BibTex]


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Measuring How People Learn How to Plan

Jain, Y. R., Callaway, F., Lieder, F.

41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
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.

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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What’s in the Adaptive Toolbox and How Do People Choose From It? Rational Models of Strategy Selection in Risky Choice

Mohnert, F., Pachur, T., Lieder, F.

41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Although process data indicates that people often rely on various (often heuristic) strategies to choose between risky options, our models of heuristics cannot predict people's choices very accurately. To address this challenge, it has been proposed that people adaptively choose from a toolbox of simple strategies. But which strategies are contained in this toolbox? And how do people decide when to use which decision strategy? Here, we develop a model according to which each person selects decisions strategies rationally from their personal toolbox; our model allows one to infer which strategies are contained in the cognitive toolbox of an individual decision-maker and specifies when she will use which strategy. Using cross-validation on an empirical data set, we find that this rational model of strategy selection from a personal adaptive toolbox predicts people's choices better than any single strategy (even when it is allowed to vary across participants) and better than previously proposed toolbox models. Our model comparisons show that both inferring the toolbox and rational strategy selection are critical for accurately predicting people's risky choices. Furthermore, our model-based data analysis reveals considerable individual differences in the set of strategies people are equipped with and how they choose among them; these individual differences could partly explain why some people make better choices than others. These findings represent an important step towards a complete formalization of the notion that people select their cognitive strategies from a personal adaptive toolbox.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2018


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Learning to select computations

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

In Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence: Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth Conference, August 2018, Frederick Callaway and Sayan Gul and Falk Lieder contributed equally to this publication. (inproceedings)

Abstract
The efficient use of limited computational resources is an essential ingredient of intelligence. Selecting computations optimally according to rational metareasoning would achieve this, but this is computationally intractable. Inspired by psychology and neuroscience, we propose the first concrete and domain-general learning algorithm for approximating the optimal selection of computations: Bayesian metalevel policy search (BMPS). We derive this general, sample-efficient search algorithm for a computation-selecting metalevel policy based on the insight that the value of information lies between the myopic value of information and the value of perfect information. We evaluate BMPS on three increasingly difficult metareasoning problems: when to terminate computation, how to allocate computation between competing options, and planning. Across all three domains, BMPS achieved near-optimal performance and compared favorably to previously proposed metareasoning heuristics. Finally, we demonstrate the practical utility of BMPS in an emergency management scenario, even accounting for the overhead of metareasoning.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2018

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Discovering Rational Heuristics for Risky Choice

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

The 14th biannual conference of the German Society for Cognitive Science, GK, The 14th biannual conference of the German Society for Cognitive Science, GK, September 2018 (conference)

Abstract
How should we think and decide to make the best possible use of our precious time and limited cognitive resources? And how do people’s cognitive strategies compare to this ideal? We study these questions in the domain of multi-alternative risky choice using the methodology of resource-rational analysis. To answer the first question, we leverage a new meta-level reinforcement learning algorithm to derive optimal heuristics for four different risky choice environments. We find that our method rediscovers two fast-and-frugal heuristics that people are known to use, namely Take-The-Best and choosing randomly, as resource-rational strategies for specific environments. Our method also discovered a novel heuristic that combines elements of Take-The-Best and Satisficing. To answer the second question, we use the Mouselab paradigm to measure how people’s decision strategies compare to the predictions of our resource-rational analysis. We found that our resource-rational analysis correctly predicted which strategies people use and under which conditions they use them. While people generally tend to make rational use of their limited resources overall, their strategy choices do not always fully exploit the structure of each decision problem. Overall, people’s decision operations were about 88% as resource-rational as they could possibly be. A formal model comparison confirmed that our resource-rational model explained people’s decision strategies significantly better than the Directed Cognition model of Gabaix et al. (2006). Our study is a proof-of-concept that optimal cognitive strategies can be automatically derived from the principle of resource-rationality. Our results suggest that resource-rational analysis is a promising approach for uncovering people’s cognitive strategies and revisiting the debate about human rationality with a more realistic normative standard.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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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]

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

2017


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Enhancing metacognitive reinforcement learning using reward structures and feedback

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

In Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 2017 (inproceedings)

Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

2017

Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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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]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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An automatic method for discovering rational heuristics for risky choice

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

In Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society, 2017, Falk Lieder and Paul M. Krueger contributed equally to this publication. (inproceedings)

Abstract
What is the optimal way to make a decision given that your time is limited and your cognitive resources are bounded? To answer this question, we formalized the bounded optimal decision process as the solution to a meta-level Markov decision process whose actions are costly computations. We approximated the optimal solution and evaluated its predictions against human choice behavior in the Mouselab paradigm, which is widely used to study decision strategies. Our computational method rediscovered well-known heuristic strategies and the conditions under which they are used, as well as novel heuristics. A Mouselab experiment confirmed our model’s main predictions. These findings are a proof-of-concept that optimal cognitive strategies can be automatically derived as the rational use of finite time and bounded cognitive resources.

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]

2015


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When to use which heuristic: A rational solution to the strategy selection problem

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

In Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The human mind appears to be equipped with a toolbox full of cognitive strategies, but how do people decide when to use which strategy? We leverage rational metareasoning to derive a rational solution to this problem and apply it to decision making under uncertainty. The resulting theory reconciles the two poles of the debate about human rationality by proposing that people gradually learn to make rational use of fallible heuristics. We evaluate this theory against empirical data and existing accounts of strategy selection (i.e. SSL and RELACS). Our results suggest that while SSL and RELACS can explain people's ability to adapt to homogeneous environments in which all decision problems are of the same type, rational metareasoning can additionally explain people's ability to adapt to heterogeneous environments and flexibly switch strategies from one decision to the next.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2015

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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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]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2014


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Algorithm selection by rational metareasoning as a model of human strategy selection

Lieder, F., Plunkett, D., Hamrick, J. B., Russell, S. J., Hay, N. J., Griffiths, T. L.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Selecting the right algorithm is an important problem in computer science, because the algorithm often has to exploit the structure of the input to be efficient. The human mind faces the same challenge. Therefore, solutions to the algorithm selection problem can inspire models of human strategy selection and vice versa. Here, we view the algorithm selection problem as a special case of metareasoning and derive a solution that outperforms existing methods in sorting algorithm selection. We apply our theory to model how people choose between cognitive strategies and test its prediction in a behavioral experiment. We find that people quickly learn to adaptively choose between cognitive strategies. People's choices in our experiment are consistent with our model but inconsistent with previous theories of human strategy selection. Rational metareasoning appears to be a promising framework for reverse-engineering how people choose among cognitive strategies and translating the results into better solutions to the algorithm selection problem.

Project Page [BibTex]

2014

Project Page [BibTex]