Professor Nathaniel Daw | Thinking the right thoughts

Mind Meeting

  • Datum: 09.09.2021
  • Uhrzeit: 15:30 - 17:00
  • Vortragende(r): Professor Nathaniel Daw
  • Department of Psychology, Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, NJ, USA
  • Ort: MPI für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften
  • Raum: Zoom Meeting
  • Gastgeber: Department of Psychology
  • Kontakt:
In many learning and decision scenarios, especially sequential tasks like mazes, it is easy to state an objective function for optimal choice, but difficult to actually compute it: for instance because this can require enumerating many possible future trajectories. This motivates a variety of simpler but less accurate approximations believed to be used as shortcuts by the brain, which then, in turn, raise questions about when a resource-efficient agent should invest in evaluating candidate actions more carefully. Previous work has used a simple all-or-nothing version of this reasoning as a framework to explain many phenomena of automaticity, habits, and compulsion in humans and animals: a rational cost-benefit account for why and when we exhibit habits and slips of action.

Here, I present a more finegrained theoretical analysis of deliberation, which attempts to address not just whether to deliberate vs. act, but which of many possible actions and trajectories to consider. Empirically, I first motivate and compare this account to nonlocal representations of spatial trajectories in the rodent place cell system, which are thought to be involved in planning. I also consider its implications, in humans, for variation over time and situations in subjective feelings of mental effort, boredom, and cognitive fatigue. Finally, I present results from a new study using magnetoencephalography in humans to measure subjective consideration of possible trajectories during a sequential learning task, and study its relationship to rational prioritization and to choice behavior.

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