Information-theoretic Bounded Rationality: Timing Laws and Cognitive Costs Emerge from Rational Bounds on Information Coding and Transmission

Loading...
Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

Statistics
View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Title

Information-theoretic Bounded Rationality: Timing Laws and Cognitive Costs Emerge from Rational Bounds on Information Coding and Transmission

Published Date

2019-10

Publisher

Type

Thesis or Dissertation

Abstract

Cognitive models are used to characterize and understand task performance in humans. Human behavior often deviates from predictions made by models that assume perfect rationality. Imposing constraints on cognitive resources, time, and/or information, while still assuming optimal function within those bounds, produces better characterizations of behavior. However, many of the proposed constraints and costs are ad-hoc and are not derived from fundamental limitations on computation. We suggest that behavioral performance is limited by the necessity of encoding and transmitting information about the world in the brain. Encoding information imposes a set of intrinsic bounds, defined by signal power, noise power, and knowledge of environmental statistics, that can be understood and quantified using concepts from information theory. In this dissertation, we investigate the patterns of behavior that should arise if cognition is subject to these bounds. Using an information transmission mechanism built using stochastic processes and Bayesian inference, we show that known `laws' of human behavior, including the Hick-Hyman law and the Power Law of Learning, are direct consequences of unavoidable limitations on the efficiency of information transmission. By instantiating constraints on information transmission in a working system, we are able to quantify transmission costs induced by task performance. This provides a unifying and principled explanation of cognitive costs and mental effort: effort arises in tasks that require expensive information transmission and is reduced through practice as learned task statistics are exploited to improve efficiency. To test the extent to which humans exploit task statistics to improve efficiency, we measured behavior on a version of the N-back task modified to include a predictable structure in target responses. We found that human data closely matches model predictions, suggesting that humans integrate information about both task structure and past images to produce responses. This finding is an experimental validation of our model, and suggests that the N-back task is more complex than is normally assumed. In sum, we show that treating cognition as a process constrained by fundamental bounds on information transmission provides a unified explanation of a wide range of behavioral phenomena.

Description

University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2019. Major: Psychology. Advisors: Paul Schrater, Maria Gini. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 164 pages.

Related to

Replaces

License

Collections

Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Christie, Scott. (2019). Information-theoretic Bounded Rationality: Timing Laws and Cognitive Costs Emerge from Rational Bounds on Information Coding and Transmission. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/209209.

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.