Learning under uncertainty: a comparison between R-W and Bayesian approach

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS 2016)

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He Huang, Martin Paulus


Accurately differentiating between what are truly unpredictably random and systematic changes that occur at random can have profound effect on affect and cognition. To examine the underlying computational principles that guide different learning behavior in an uncertain environment, we compared an R-W model and a Bayesian approach in a visual search task with different volatility levels. Both R-W model and the Bayesian approach reflected an individual's estimation of the environmental volatility, and there is a strong correlation between the learning rate in R-W model and the belief of stationarity in the Bayesian approach in different volatility conditions. In a low volatility condition, R-W model indicates that learning rate positively correlates with lose-shift rate, but not choice optimality (inverted U shape). The Bayesian approach indicates that the belief of environmental stationarity positively correlates with choice optimality, but not lose-shift rate (inverted U shape). In addition, we showed that comparing to Expert learners, individuals with high lose-shift rate (sub-optimal learners) had significantly higher learning rate estimated from R-W model and lower belief of stationarity from the Bayesian model.