Promoting spontaneous analogical transfer by idealizing target representations

Trench, M., Tavernini, L. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2023).  Promoting spontaneous analogical transfer by idealizing target representations.  Memory & Cognition,

Recent results demonstrate that inducing an abstract representation of target analogs at retrieval time aids access to analogous situations with mismatching surface features (i.e., the late abstraction principle). A limitation of current implementations of this principle is that they either require the external provision of target-specific information or demand very high intellectual effort. Experiment 1 demonstrated that constructing an idealized situation model of a target problem increases the rate of correct solutions compared with constructing either concrete simulations or no simulations. Experiment 2 confirmed that these results were based on an advantage for accessing the base analog, and not merely an advantage of idealized simulations for understanding the target problem in its own terms. This target idealization strategy has broader applicability than prior interventions based on the late abstraction principle because it can be achieved by a greater proportion of participants and without the need to receive target-specific information. We present a computational model, SampComp, that predicts successful retrieval of a stored situation to understand a target based on the overlap of a random, but potentially biased, sample of features from each. SampComp is able to account for the relative benefits of base and target idealization, and their interaction.

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The Emergence of Specialized Roles Within Groups

Goldstone, R. L., Andrade-Lotero, E., Hawkins, R. D., & Roberts, M. E. (2023). The emergence of specialized roles Within groups.  Topics in Cognitive Science, DOI: 10.1111/tops.12644.

Humans routinely form groups to achieve goals that no individual can accomplish alone. Group coordination often brings to mind synchrony and alignment, where all individuals do the same thing (e.g., driving on the right side of the road, marching in lockstep, or playing musical instruments on a regular beat). Yet, effective coordination also typically involves differentiation, where specialized roles emerge for different members (e.g., prep stations in a kitchen or positions on an athletic team). Role specialization poses a challenge for computational models of group coordination, which have largely focused on achieving synchrony. Here, we present the CARMI framework, which characterizes role specialization processes in terms of five core features that we hope will help guide future model development: Communication, Adaptation to feedback, Repulsion, Multi-level planning, and Intention modeling. Although there are many paths to role formation, we suggest that roles emerge when each agent in a group dynamically allocates their behavior toward a shared goal to complement what they expect others to do. In other words, coordination concerns beliefs (who will do what) rather than simple actions. We describe three related experimental paradigms‚ÄĒ‚ÄúGroup Binary Search,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúBattles of the Exes,‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúFind the Unicorn‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒthat we have used to study differentiation processes in the lab, each emphasizing different aspects of the CARMI framework.

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Plan composition using higher-order functions

Rivera, E., Krishnamurthi, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2022).¬†¬†Plan composition using higher-order functions. In Proceedings of the 2022 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research V.1 (ICER 2022), August 7‚Äď11, 2022, Lugano, Switzerland. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 21 pages.

Program planning has been a longstanding and important problem in computing education. Finding useful primitives for planning and assessing whether students are able to understand and use these primitives remain open problems. We make progress on this problem by using higher-order functions (hofs) as planning operations. Not only are hofs increasingly prevalent in computing broadly, some data science programming sources also recommend their use in planning solutions to data-processing pipelines, giving our task additional applicability.

We find students are proficient at recognizing individual hofs through input-output examples. They use a variety of features to identify hofs, with the most prominent features being type-based. While they do have difficulty recognizing compositions of hofs presented in the same input-output example format, there may be simple explanations for this. Either way, students are able to produce correct plans that require composing hofs, and can successfully translate these plans into correct code.

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Partial copying and the role of diversity in social learning performance

Campbell, C., Izquierdo, E. & Goldstone, R. L. (2022).  Partial copying and the role of diversity in social learning performance. Collective Intelligence, 1:1, 1-15. 10.1177/26339137221081849

One major way that people engage in adaptive problem solving is by imitating others’ solutions. Prominent simulation models have found imperfect imitation advantageous, but the interactions between copying amount and other prevalent aspects of social learning strategies have been underexplored. Here, we explore the consequences for a group when its members engage in strategies with different degrees of copying, solving search problems of varying complexity, in different network topologies that affect the solutions visible to each member. Using a computational model of collective problem solving, we demonstrate that the advantage of partial copying is robust across these conditions, arising from its ability to maintain diversity. Partial copying delays convergence generally but especially in globally connected networks, which are typically associated with diversity loss, allowing more exploration of a problem space.We show that a moderate amount of diversity maintenance is optimal and strategies can be adjusted to find that sweet spot.

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 A computational model of context-dependent encodings during category learning

Carvalho, P. F., & Goldstone, R. L. (2022).  A computational model of context-dependent encodings during category learning, Cognitive Science, 46, e13128.

Although current exemplar models of category learning are flexible and can capture how different features are emphasized for different categories, they still lack the flexibility to adapt to local changes in category learning, such as the effect of different sequences of study. In this paper, we introduce a new model of category learning, the Sequential Attention Theory Model (SAT-M), in which the encoding of each presented item is influenced not only by its category assignment (global context) as in other exemplar models, but also by how its properties relate to the properties of temporally neighboring items (local context). By fitting SAT-M to data from experiments comparing category learning with different sequences of trials (interleaved vs. blocked), we demonstrate that SAT-M captures the effect of local context and predicts when interleaved or blocked training will result in better testing performance across three different studies. Comparatively, ALCOVE, SUSTAIN, and a version of SAT-M without locally adaptive encoding provided poor fits to the results.Moreover, we evaluated the direct prediction of the model that different sequences of training change what learners encode and determined that the best-fit encoding parameter values match learners’ looking times during training.

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Getting situated: Comparative Analysis of Language models with experimental categorization tasks

Edinger, A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2022). Getting situated: Comparative Analysis of Language models with experimental categorization tasks.  Proceedings of the 44th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 230-236).  Toronto, Canada. Cognitive Science Society.

Common critiques of natural language processing (NLP) methods cite their lack of multimodal sensory information, claiming an inability to learn situated, action-oriented relations through language alone. Barsalou’s (1983) theory of ad hoc categories, which are formed from to achieve goals in real-world scenarios, correspond theoretically to those types of relations with which language models ought to have great difficulty. Recent NLP models have developed dynamic approaches to word representations, where the same word can have different encodings depending on the context in which it appears. Testing these models using categorization tasks with human response data demonstrates that situated properties may be partially captured through semantic analysis. We discuss possible ways in which different notions of situatedness may be distinguished for future development and testing of NLP models.

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Exposing learners to variability during training has been demonstrated to improve performance

Gorman,T. E., & Goldstone, R. L. (2022).  An instance-based model account of the benefits of varied practice in visuomotor skill.  Cognitive Psychology, 137. E101491.

Exposing learners to variability during training has been demonstrated to improve performance in subsequent transfer testing. Such variability benefits are often accounted for by assuming that learners are developing some general task schema or structure. However much of this research has neglected to account for differences in similarity between varied and constant training conditions. In a between-groups manipulation, we trained participants on a simple projectile launching task, with either varied or constant conditions. We replicate previous findings showing a transfer advantage of varied over constant training. Furthermore, we show that a standard similarity model is insufficient to account for the benefits of variation, but, if the model is adjusted to assume that varied learners are tuned towards a broader generalization gradient, then a similarity-based model is sufficient to explain the observed benefits of variation. Our results therefore suggest that some variability benefits can be accommodated within instance-based models without positing the learning of some schemata or structure.

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Categorical perception meets El Greco: categories unequally influence color perception of simultaneously present objects

Dubova, M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2022).  Categorical perception meets El Greco: categories unequally influence color perception of simultaneously present objects. Cognition, 223, 1-14. 105025.

Broad empirical evidence suggests that higher-level cognitive processes, such as language, categorization, and emotion, shape human visual perception. Do these higher-level processes shape human perception of all the relevant items within an immediately available scene, or do they affect only some of them? Here, we study categorical effects on visual perception by adapting a perceptual matching task so as to minimize potential non- perceptual influences. In three experiments with human adults (N = 80; N = 80, N = 82), we found that the learned higher-level categories systematically bias human perceptual matchings away from a caricature of their typical color. This effect, however, unequally biased different objects that were simultaneously present within the scene, thus demonstrating a more nuanced picture of top-down influences on perception than has been commonly assumed. In particular, perception of only the object to be matched, not the matching object, was influenced by animal category and it was gazed at less often by participants. These results suggest that category- based associations change perceptual encodings of the items at the periphery of our visual field or the items stored in concurrent memory when a person moves their eyes from one object to another. The main finding of this study calls for a revision of theories of top-down effects on perception and falsify the core assumption behind the El Greco fallacy criticism of them.

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Tonal Emergence: An agent-based model of tonal coordination

Setzler, M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2022). Tonal Emergence: An Agent-Based Model of Tonal Coordination. Cognition, 221, 1-19. 104968.

 Humans have a remarkable capacity for coordination. Our ability to interact and act jointly in groups is crucial to our success as a species. Joint Action (JA) research has often concerned itself with simplistic behaviors in highly constrained laboratory tasks. But there has been a growing interest in understanding complex coordination in more open-ended contexts. In this regard, collective music improvisation has emerged as a fascinating model domain for studying basic JA mechanisms in an unconstrained and highly sophisticated setting. A number of empirical studies have begun to elucidate coordination mechanisms underlying joint musical improvisation, but these findings have yet to be cached out in a working computational model. The present work fills this gap by presenting Tonal Emergence, an idealized agent-based model of improvised musical coordination. Tonal Emergence models the coordination of notes played by improvisers to generate harmony (i.e., tonality), by simulating agents that stochastically generate notes biased towards maximizing harmonic consonance given their partner’s previous notes. The model replicates an interesting empirical result from a previous study of professional jazz pianists: feedback loops of mutual adaptation between interacting agents support the production of consonant harmony. The model is further explored to show how complex tonal dynamics, such as the production and dissolution of stable tonal centers, are supported by agents that are characterized by (i) a tendency to strive toward consonance, (ii) stochasticity, and (iii) a limited memory for previously played notes. Tonal Emergence thus provides a grounded computational model to simulate and probe the coordination mechanisms underpinning one of the more remarkable feats of human cognition: collective music improvisation. 

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A Social Interpolation model of group problem-solving

Sloman, S. J., Goldstone, R. L., & Gonzalez, C. (2021). A Social Interpolation model of group problem-solving.  Cognitive Science, 45, 1-30. E13066

How do people use information from others to solve complex problems? Prior work has addressed this question by placing people in social learning situations where the problems they were asked to solve required varying degrees of exploration. This past work uncovered important interactions between groups‚Äô connectivity and the problem‚Äôs complexity: the advantage of less connected networks over more connected networks increased as exploration was increasingly required for optimally solving the problem at hand. We propose the Social Interpolation Model (SIM), an agent-based model to explore the cognitive mechanisms that can underlie exploratory behavior in groups. Through results from simulation experiments, we conclude that ‚Äúexploration‚ÄĚ may not be a single cognitive property, but rather the emergent result of three distinct behavioral and cognitive mechanisms, namely, (a) breadth of generalization, (b) quality of prior expectation, and (c) relative valuation of self-obtained information. We formalize these mechanisms in the SIM, and explore their effects on group dynamics and success at solving different kinds of problems. Our main finding is that broad generalization and high quality of prior expectation facilitate successful search in environments where exploration is important, and hinder successful search in environments where exploitation alone is sufficient.

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Self-organized division of cognitive labor

Andrade-Lotero, E., & Goldstone, R. L. (2021).  Self-organized division of cognitive labor.  PLoS ONE, 16(7): e0254532. 

Often members of a group benefit from dividing the group’s task into separate components, where each member specializes their role so as to accomplish only one of the components. While this division of labor phenomenon has been observed with respect to both manual and cognitive labor, there is no clear understanding of the cognitive mechanisms allowing for its emergence, especially when there are multiple divisions possible and communication is limited. Indeed, maximization of expected utility often does not differentiate between alternative ways in which individuals could divide labor. We developed an iterative two-person game in which there are multiple ways of dividing labor, but in which it is not possible to explicitly negotiate a division. We implemented the game both as a human experimental task and as a computational model. Our results show that the majority of human dyads can finish the game with an efficient division of labor. Moreover, we fitted our computational model to the behavioral data, which allowed us to explain how the perceived similarity between a player’s actions and the task’s focal points guided the players’ choices from one round to the other, thus bridging the group dynamics and its underlying cognitive process. Potential applications of this model outside cognitive science include the improvement of cooperation in human groups, multi-agent systems, as well as human-robot collaboration.

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The Influences of Category Learning on Perceptual Reconstructions

Dubova, M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2021). The Influences of Category Learning on Perceptual Reconstructions.  Cognitive Science, 45, e12981, 1-24.

We explore different ways in which the human visual system can adapt for perceiving and categorizing the environment. There are various accounts of supervised (categorical) and unsupervised perceptual learning, and different perspectives on the functional relationship between perception and categorization. We suggest that common experimental designs are insufficient to differentiate between hypothesized perceptual learning mechanisms and reveal their possible interplay. We propose a relatively underutilized way of studying potential categorical effects on perception, and we test the predictions of different perceptual learning models using a two-dimensional, interleaved categorizationplus- reconstruction task. We find evidence that the human visual system adapts its encodings to the feature structure of the environment, uses categorical expectations for robust reconstruction, allocates encoding resources with respect to categorization utility, and adapts to prevent miscategorizations.

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The most efficient sequence of study depends on the type of test

Carvalho, P. F., & Goldstone, R. L. (2021). The most efficient sequence of study depends on the type of test.  Applied Cognitive Psychology, 35, 82-97.

Across three experiments featuring naturalistic concepts (psychology concepts) and na√Įve learners, we extend previous research showing an effect of the sequence of study on learning outcomes, by demonstrating that the sequence of examples during study changes the representation the learner creates of the study materials. We compared participants’ performance in test tasks requiring different representations and evaluated which sequence yields better learning in which type of tests. We found that interleaved study, in which examples from different concepts are mixed, leads to the creation of relatively interrelated concepts that are represented by contrast to each other and based on discriminating properties. Conversely, blocked study, in which several examples of the same concept are presented together, leads to the creation of relatively isolated concepts that are represented in terms of their central and characteristic properties. These results argue for the integrated investigation of the benefits of different sequences of study as depending on the characteristics of the study and testing situation.

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Reinforcement communication learning in different social network structures

Dubova, M., Moskvichev, A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2020). Reinforcement Communication Learning in Different Social Network Structures. International Conference on Machine Learning, 1st Language and Reinforcement Learning Workshop. 

Social network structure is one of the key determinants of human language evolution. Previous work has shown that the network of social interactions shapes decentralized learning in human groups, leading to the emergence of different kinds of communicative conventions. We examined the effects of social network organization on the properties of communication systems emerging in decentralized, multi-agent reinforcement learning communities. We found that the global connectivity of a social network drives the convergence of populations on shared and symmetric communication systems, preventing the agents from forming many local ‚Äúdialects‚ÄĚ. Moreover, the agent‚Äôs degree is inversely related to the consistency of its use of communicative conventions. These results show the importance of the basic properties of social network structure on reinforcement communication learning and suggest a new interpretation of findings on human convergence on word conventions.

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How much to copy from others?

Campbell, C., Izquierdo, E. & Goldstone, R. L. (2020).  How much to copy from others? The role of partial copying in social learning.  Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 916-922). Toronto, Canada: Cognitive Science Society.

One of the major ways that people engage in adaptive problem solving is by copying the solutions of others. Most of the work on this field has focused on three questions: when to copy, who to copy from, and what to copy. However, how much to copy has been relatively less explored. In the current research, we are interested in the consequences for a group when its members engage in social learning strategies with different tendencies to copy entire or partial solutions and different complexities of search problems. We also consider different network topologies that affect the solutions visible to each member. Using a computational model of collective problem solving, we demonstrate that strategies where social learning involves partial copying outperform strategies where individuals copy entire solutions. We analyze the exploration/exploitation dynamics of these social learning strategies under the different conditions.

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Reconstructing Maps from Text

Avery, J. E., Goldstone, R. L., & Jones, M. N. (2020).  Reconstructing Maps from Text.  Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 557-563).  Toronto, CA. Cognitive Science Society.

 Previous research has demonstrated that Distributional Semantic Models (DSMs) are capable of reconstructing maps from news corpora (Louwerse & Zwaan, 2009) and novels (Louwerse & Benesh, 2012). The capacity for reproducing maps is surprising since DSMs notoriously lack perceptual grounding (De Vega et al., 2012). In this paper we investigate the statistical sources required in language to infer maps, and resulting constraints placed on mechanisms of semantic representation. Study 1 brings word co-occurrence under experimental control to demonstrate that direct co-occurrence in language is necessary for traditional DSMs to successfully reproduce maps. Study 2 presents an instance-based DSM that is capable of reconstructing maps independent of the frequency of co-occurrence of city names. 

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Simple Threshold Rules Solve Explore/Exploit Trade-offs in a Resource Accumulation Search Task

Sang, K., Todd, P. M., Goldstone, R. L., & Hills, T. T. (2020).  Simple threshold rules solve explore/exploit tradeoffs in a resource accumulation search task. Cognitive Science, 44, e12817.

How, and how well, do people switch between exploration and exploitation to search for and accumulate resources? We study the decision processes underlying such exploration/exploitation trade-offs using a novel card selection task that captures the common situation of searching among multiple resources (e.g., jobs) that can be exploited without depleting. With experience, participants learn to switch appropriately between exploration and exploitation and approach optimal performance. We model participants‚Äô behavior on this task with random, threshold, and sampling strategies, and find that a linear decreasing threshold rule best fits participants‚Äô results. Further evidence that participants use decreasing threshold-based strategies comes from reaction time differences between exploration and exploitation; however, participants themselves report nondecreasing thresholds. Decreasing threshold strategies that ‚Äúfront-load‚ÄĚ exploration and switch quickly to exploitation are particularly effective in resource accumulation tasks, in contrast to optimal stopping problems like the Secretary Problem requiring longer exploration.

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Bias to (and away from) the Extreme: Comparing Two Models of Categorical Perception Effects

Best, R. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019). Bias to (and away from) the Extreme: Comparing Two Models of Categorical Perception Effects.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 7, 1166-1176.

Categorical Perception (CP) effects manifest as faster or more accurate discrimination between objects that come from different categories compared to objects that come from the same category, controlling for the physical differences between the objects. The most popular explanations of CP effects have relied on perceptual warping causing stimuli near a category boundary to appear more similar to stimuli within their own category and/ or less similar to stimuli from other categories. Hanley and Roberson (2011), on the basis of a pattern not previously noticed in CP experiments, proposed an explanation of CP effects that relies not on perceptual warping, but instead on inconsistent usage of category labels. Experiments 1 and 2 in this paper show a pattern opposite the one Hanley and Roberson pointed out. Experiment 3, using the same stimuli but with different choice statistics (i.e., different probabilities of each face being the target), obtains the same pattern as the one Hanley and Roberson showed. Simulations show that both category label and perceptual models are able to reproduce the patterns of results from both experiments, provided they include information about the choice statistics. This suggests two conclusions. First, the results described by Hanley and Roberson should not be taken as evidence in favor of a category label model. Second, given that participants did not receive feedback on their choices, there must be some mechanism by which participants monitor their own choices and adapt to the choice statistics present in the experiment.

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Becoming cognitive science

Goldstone, R. L. (2019).  Becoming cognitive science.  Topics in Cognitive Science, 1-12.

Cognitive science continues to make a compelling case for having a coherent, unique, and fundamental¬†subject of inquiry: What is the nature of minds, where do they come from, and how do¬†they work? Central to this inquiry is the notion of agents that have goals, one of which is their¬†own persistence, who use dynamically constructed knowledge to act in the world to achieve those¬†goals. An agentive perspective explains why a special class of systems have a cluster of co-occurring¬†capacities that enable them to exhibit adaptive behavior in a complex environment: perception,¬†attention, memory, representation, planning, and communication. As an intellectual endeavor,¬†cognitive science may not have achieved a hard core of uncontested assumptions that Lakatos¬†(1978) identifies as emblematic of a successful research program, but there are alternative conceptions¬†according to which cognitive science has been successful. First, challenges of the early, core¬†tenet of ‚ÄúMind as Computation‚ÄĚ have helped put cognitive science on a stronger foundation‚ÄĒone¬†that incorporates relations between minds and their environments. Second, even if a full cross-disciplinary¬†theoretic consensus is elusive, cognitive science can inspire distant, deep, and transformative¬†connections between pairs of fields. To be intellectually vital, cognitive science need not¬†resemble a traditional discipline with its associated insularity and unchallenged assumptions.¬†Instead, there is strength and resilience in the diverse perspectives and methods that cognitive¬†science assembles together. This interdisciplinary enterprise is fragile and perhaps inherently¬†unstable, as the looming absorption of cognitive science into psychology shows. Still, for many¬†researchers, the excitement and benefits of triangulating on the nature of minds by integrating¬†diverse cases cannot be secured by a stable discipline with an uncontested core of assumptions.

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Beyond the lab: Using big data to discover principles of cognition

Lupyan, G., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019). Introduction to special issue. Beyond the lab: Using big data to discover principles of cognition.  Behavior Research Methods, 51, 1473-1476.

Like many other scientific disciplines, psychological science¬†has felt the impact of the big-data revolution. This impact¬†arises from the meeting of three forces: data availability, data¬†heterogeneity, and data analyzability. In terms of data¬†availability, consider that for decades, researchers relied on¬†the Brown Corpus of about one million words (Kuńćera &¬†Francis, 1969). Modern resources, in contrast, are larger by¬†six orders of magnitude (e.g., Google‚Äôs 1T corpus) and are¬†available in a growing number of languages. About 240 billion¬†photos have been uploaded to Facebook,1¬† and Instagram¬†receives over 100 million new photos each day.2¬† The largescale¬†digitization of these data has made it possible in principle¬†to analyze and aggregate these resources on a previously¬†unimagined scale. Heterogeneity¬† refers to the availability of¬†different types¬† of data. For example, recent progress in automatic¬†image recognition is owed not just to improvements in¬†algorithms and hardware, but arguably more to the ability to¬†merge large collections of images with linguistic labels (produced¬†by crowdsourced human taggers) that serve as training¬†data to the algorithms. Making use of heterogeneous data¬†sources often depends on their standardization. For example,¬†the ability to combine demographic and grammatical data¬†about thousands of languages led to the finding that languages¬†spoken by more people have simpler morphologies (Lupyan¬†& Dale, 2010 ). The ability to combine these data types would¬†have been substantially more difficult without the existence of¬†standardized language and country codes that could be used to¬†merge the different data sources. Finally, analyzability¬† must be¬†ensured, for without appropriate tools to process and analyze¬†different types of data, the ‚Äú data‚Ä̬† are merely bytes.

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See all of the papers appearing in the Big Data Special Issue of Behavior Research Methods

The Evolutionary Dynamics of Cooperation in Collective Search

Tump, A. N., Wu, C. M., Bouhlel, I., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019).The Evolutionary Dynamics of Cooperation in Collective Search.  Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 883-889). Montreal, Canada: Cognitive Science Society.

How does cooperation arise in an evolutionary context? We approach¬†this problem using a collective search paradigm where¬†interactions are dynamic and there is competition for rewards.¬†Using evolutionary simulations, we find that the unconditional¬†sharing of information can be an evolutionary advantageous¬†strategy without the need for conditional strategies or explicit¬†reciprocation. Shared information acts as a recruitment signal¬†and facilitates the formation of a self-organized group.¬†Thus, the improved search efficiency of the collective bestows¬†byproduct benefits onto the original sharer. A key mechanism¬†is a visibility radius, where individuals have unconditional¬†access to information about neighbors within a limited¬†distance. Our results show that for a variety of initial¬†conditions‚ÄĒincluding populations initially devoid of prosocial¬†individuals‚ÄĒand across both static and dynamic fitness landscapes,¬†we find strong selection pressure to evolve unconditional¬†sharing.

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Self-Organized Division of Cognitive Labor

Andrade-Lotero, E., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019).  Self-Organized Division of Cognitive Labor.  Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 91-97). Montreal, Canada: Cognitive Science Society.

The division of labor phenomenon has been observed with respect to both manual and cognitive labor, but there is no clear understanding of the intra- and inter-individual mechanisms that allow for its emergence, especially when there are multiple divisions possible and communication is limited. Situations fitting this description include individuals in a group splitting a geographical region for resource harvesting without explicit negotiation, or a couple tacitly negotiating the hour of the day for each to shower so that there is sufficient hot water. We studied this phenomenon by means of an iterative two-person game where multiple divisions are possible, but no explicit communication is allowed. Our results suggest that there are a limited number of biases toward divisions of labor, which serve as attractors in the dynamics of dyadic coordination. However, unlike Schelling’s focal points, these biases do not attract players’ attention at the onset of the interaction, but are only revealed and consolidated by the in-game dynamics of dyadic interaction.

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A Computational Model of Scientific Discovery in a Very Simple World, Aiming at Psychological Realism

Lara-Dammer, F., Hofstadter, D. R., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019). A Computational Model of Scientific Discovery in a Very Simple World, Aiming at Psychological Realism.  Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, 1-22. 10.1080/0952813X.2019.1592234

We propose a computational model of human scientific discovery and perception of the world. As a prerequisite for such a model, we simulate dynamic microworlds in which physical events take place, as well as an observer that visually perceives and makes interpretations of events in the microworld. Moreover, we give the observer the ability to actively conduct experiments in order to gain evidence about natural regularities in the world. We have broken up the description of our project into two pieces. The first piece deals with the interpreter constructing relatively simple visual descriptions of objects and collisions within a context. The second phase deals with the interpreter positing relationships among the entities, winding up with elaborated construals and conjectures of mathematical laws governing the world. This paper focuses only on the second phase. As is the case with most human scientific observation, observations are subject to interpretation, and the discoveries are influenced by these interpretations.

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The emergence of social norms and conventions

Hawkins, R. X. D., Goodman, N. D., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019). The emergence of social norms and conventions.  Trends in Cognitive Science.

The utility of our actions frequently depends upon the beliefs and behavior of other agents. Thankfully, through experience, we learn norms and conventions that provide stable expectations for navigating our social world. Here, we review several distinct influences on their content and distribution. At the level of individuals locally interacting in dyads, success depends on rapidly adapting pre-existing norms to the local context. Hence, norms are shaped by complex cognitive processes involved in learning and social reasoning. At the population level, norms are influenced by intergenerational transmission and the structure of the social network. As human social connectivity continues to increase, understanding and predicting how these levels and time scales interact to produce new norms will be crucial for improving communities. 

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Cognitive mechanisms for human flocking dynamics

Frey, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018).  Cognitive mechanisms for human flocking dynamics.  Journal of Computational Social Science.

Low-level ‚Äúadaptive‚ÄĚ and higher-level ‚Äúsophisticated‚ÄĚ human reasoning processes¬†have been proposed to play opposing roles in the emergence of unpredictable collective¬†behaviors such as crowd panics, traffic jams, and market bubbles. While adaptive¬†processes are widely recognized drivers of emergent social complexity, complementary¬†theories of sophistication predict that incentives, education, and other¬†inducements to rationality will suppress it. We show in a series of multiplayer laboratory¬†experiments that, rather than suppressing complex social dynamics, sophisticated¬†reasoning processes can drive them. Our experiments elicit an endogenous¬†collective behavior and show that it is driven by the human ability to recursively¬†anticipate the reasoning of others. We identify this behavior, ‚Äúsophisticated flocking‚ÄĚ,¬†across three games, the Beauty Contest and the ‚ÄúMod Game‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúRunway¬†Game‚ÄĚ. In supporting our argument, we also present evidence for mental models and¬†social norms constraining how players express their higher-level reasoning abilities.¬†By implicating sophisticated recursive reasoning in the kind of complex dynamic¬†that it has been predicted to suppress, we support interdisciplinary perspectives that¬†emergent complexity is typical of even the most intelligent populations and carefully¬†designed social systems.

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Models of human scientific discovery

Goldstone, R. L., Gopnik, A., Thagard, P., & Ullman, T. D. (2018).  Models of human scientific discovery.  Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 29-30). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

The scientific understanding of scientific understanding has¬†been a long-standing goal of cognitive science. A satisfying¬†formal model of human scientific discovery would be a¬†major intellectual achievement, requiring solutions to core¬†problems in cognitive science: the creation and use of apt¬†mental models, the prediction of the behavior of complex¬†systems involving interactions between multiple classes of¬†elements, high-level perception of noisy and multiply¬†interpretable environments, and the active interrogation of a¬†system through strategic interventions on it ‚Äď namely, via¬†experiments. Over the past decades there have been¬†numerous attempts to build formal models that capture what¬†Perkins (1981) calls some of the ‚Äúmind‚Äôs best work‚ÄĚ ‚Ästscientific explanations for how the natural world works by¬†systematic observation, prediction, and testing. Early work¬†by Hebert Simon and his colleagues (Langley, Simon,¬†Bradshaw, & Zytkow, 1987) developed production rule¬†systems employing heuristics to tame extremely large¬†conjoint search spaces of experiments to run and hypotheses¬†to test. Qualitative physics approaches seek to understand¬†physical phenomena by building non-numeric, relational¬†models of the phenomena (Forbus, 1984). Some early¬†connectionist models interpreted scientific explanation in¬†terms of emerging patterns of strongly activated hypotheses¬†that mutually support one another (Thagard, 1992).

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Sharing is not erring: Pseudo-reciprocity in collective search

Bouhlel, I., Wu, C. M., Hanaki, N., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018). Sharing is not erring: Pseudo-reciprocity in collective search. Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 156-161). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

Information sharing in competitive environments may seem¬†counterintuitive, yet it is widely observed in humans and other¬†animals. For instance, the open-source software movement has¬†led to new and valuable technologies being released publicly¬†to facilitate broader collaboration and further innovation. What¬†drives this behavior and under which conditions can it be beneficial¬†for an individual? Using simulations in both static and¬†dynamic environments, we show that sharing information can¬†lead to individual benefits through the mechanisms of pseudoreciprocity,¬†whereby shared information leads to by-product¬†benefits for an individual without the need for explicit reciprocation.¬†Crucially, imitation with a certain level of innovation is¬†required to avoid a tragedy of the commons, while the mechanism¬†of a local visibility radius allows for the coordination of¬†self-organizing collectives of agents. When these two mechanisms¬†are present, we find robust evidence for the benefits of¬†sharing‚ÄĒeven when others do not reciprocate.

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The Great Melting Pot: generating diversity by combining solutions across a global population

Izquierdo, E. J., Campbell, C. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018). The Great Melting Pot: generating diversity by combining solutions across a global population.  Annual Meeting of Collective Intelligence.  Zurich, Switzerland.

 One of the major ways that people engage in adaptive problem solving is by copying or imitating the solutions of others. Imitation saves an individual time and mitigates potential risks from individual trial-and-error learning. When an individual finds a neighbor with a better solution than theirs, copying their entire solution guarantees an improvement over the individual‚Äôs current condition. However, this reduces the diversity of solutions in the group and can lead the group to getting stuck in a local optima. One alternative is to copy the neighbor‚Äôs solution only partially, although this comes at a risk for the individual. Mixing two solutions may or may not lead to an improvement over their previous solution, but mixing has the potential to allow the group to explore entirely new areas of solution space. So, although partial copying comes at a cost to the individual, under what conditions does it benefit the group? In the current research, we are interested in the consequences for the group when its members engage in social learning strategies with different tendencies to copy entire or partial solutions, with different network topologies that affect the neighbors‚Äô solutions visible to each member, and with different complexities of search tasks.

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Categorization and Concepts

Goldstone, R. L., Kersten, A., & Carvalho, P. F. (2017).  Categorization and Concepts.  In J. Wixted (Ed.) Stevens’ Handbook of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive neuroscience, Fourth Edition, Volume Three: Language & Thought.  New Jersey: Wiley.  (pp. 275-317).

Concepts are the building blocks of thought.¬†They are critically involved when we reason,¬†make inferences, and try to generalize¬†our previous experiences to new situations.¬†Behind every word in every language lies¬†a concept, although there are concepts, like¬†the small plastic tubes attached to the ends¬†of shoelaces, that we are familiar with and¬†can think about even if we do not know¬†that they are called aglets . Concepts are¬†indispensable to human cognition because¬†they take the ‚Äúblooming, buzzing confusion‚Ä̬†(James, 1890, p. 488) of disorganized¬†sensory experiences and establish order¬†through mental categories. These mental¬†categories allow us to make sense of the¬†world and predict how worldly entities will¬†behave. We see, hear, interpret, remember,¬†understand, and talk about our world through¬†our concepts, and so it is worthy of reflection¬†time to establish where concepts come¬†from, how they work, and how they can¬†best be learned and deployed to suit our¬†cognitive needs.

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A computer model of context dependent perception in a very simple world

Lara-Dammer, F., Hofstadter, D. R., & Goldstone, R. L. (2017). A computer model of context dependent perception in a very simple world.  Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, 29:6, 1247-1282.  DOI: 10.1080/0952813X.2017.1328463

We propose the foundations of a computer model of scientic discovery that takes into account certain psychological aspects of human observation of the world. To this end, we simulate two main components of such a system. The first is a dynamic microworld in which physical events take place, and the second is an observer that visually perceives entities and events in the microworld. For reason of space, this paper focuses only on the starting phase of discovery, which is the relatively simple visual inputs of objects and collisions.

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The Multiple Interactive Levels of Cognition (MILCS) perspective on group cognition

Goldstone, R. L., & Theiner, G. (2017). The Multiple Interactive Levels of Cognition (MILCS) perspective on group cognition.  Philosophical Psychology, 1-35.  DOI: 10.1080/09515089.2017.1295635

We lay out a multiple, interacting levels of cognitive systems¬†(MILCS) framework to account for the cognitive capacities of¬†individuals and the groups to which they belong. The goal of¬†MILCS is to explain the kinds of cognitive processes typically¬†studied by cognitive scientists, such as perception, attention,¬†memory, categorization, decision-making, problem solving,¬†judgment, and flexible behavior. Two such systems are¬†considered in some detail‚ÄĒlateral inhibition within a network¬†for selecting the most attractive option from a candidate set¬†and a diffusion process for accumulating evidence to reach¬†a rapid and accurate decision. These system descriptions¬†are aptly applied at multiple levels, including within and¬†across people. These systems provide accounts that unify¬†cognitive processes across multiple levels, can be expressed¬†in a common vocabulary provided by network science, are¬†inductively powerful yet appropriately constrained, and are¬†applicable to a large number of superficially diverse cognitive¬†systems. Given group identification processes, cognitively¬†resourceful people will frequently form groups that effectively¬†employ cognitive systems at higher levels than the individual.¬†The impressive cognitive capacities of individual people do¬†not eliminate the need to talk about group cognition. Instead,¬†smart people can provide the interacting parts for smart¬†groups

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Discovering Psychological Principles by Mining Naturally Occurring Data Sets

Goldstone, R. L., & Lupyan, G. (2016).  Harvesting naturally occurring data to reveal principles of cognition.  Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 548-568.

The very expertise with which psychologists wield their tools for achieving laboratory control may have had the unwelcome effect of blinding psychologists to the possibilities of discovering principles of behavior without conducting experiments. When creatively interrogated, a diverse range of large, real-world data sets provides powerful diagnostic tools for revealing principles of human judgment, perception, categorization, decision-making, language use, inference, problem solving, and representation. Examples of these data sets include patterns of website links, dictionaries, logs of group interactions, collections of images and image tags, text corpora, history of financial transactions, trends in twitter tag usage and propagation, patents, consumer product sales, performance in high-stakes sporting events, dialect maps, and scientific citations. The goal of this issue is to present some exemplary case studies of mining naturally existing data sets to reveal important principles and phenomena in cognitive science, and to discuss some of the underlying issues involved with conducting traditional experiments, analyses of naturally occurring data, computational modeling, and the synthesis of all three methods.This article serves as the introduction to a TopiCS topic with the same name.  The rest of the downloadable papers in this Topic are:

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Berger, J. (2016). Does presentation order impact choice after delay? Topics in Cognitive Science.

Christiansen, M. H., & Monaghan, P. (2016). Division of labor in vocabulary structure: Insights from corpus¬†analyses. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 670‚Äď684. doi: 10.1111/tops.12205.

Griffiths, T. L., Abbott, J. T., & Hsu, A. S. (2016). Exploring human cognition using large image databases.¬†Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 569‚Äď588. doi: 10.1111/tops.12209.

Heit, E., & Nicholson, S. P. (2016). Missing the party: Political categorization and reasoning in the absence¬†of party label cues. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 697‚Äď714. doi: 10.1111/tops.12206.

Koedinger, K. R., Yudelson, M. V., & Pavlik Jr., P. I. (2016). Testing theories of transfer using error rate¬†learning curves. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 589‚Äď609. doi: 10.1111/tops.12208.

Moat, H. S., Olivola, C. Y., Chater, N., & Preis, T. (2016). Searching choices: Quantifying decision making¬†processes using search engine data. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 685‚Äď696. doi: 10.1111/tops.12207.

Pope, D. G. (2016). Exploring psychology in the field: Steps and examples from the used-car market. Topics¬†in Cognitive Science, 8, 660‚Äď669. doi: 10.1111/tops.12210.

Vincent-Lamarre, P., Blondin Masse, A., Lopes, M., Lord, M., Marcotte, O., & Harnad, S. (2016). The latent¬†structure of dictionaries. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 625‚Äď659. doi: 10.1111/tops.12211.


Index of Supplemental Videos for “An Integrated Computational Model of Perception and Scientific Discovery in a Very Simple World, Aiming at Psychological Realism”

Below is an index of supplemental videos for the manuscript:

Lara-Dammer, F., Hofstadter, D. R., & Goldstone, R. L. (under review).An Integrated Computational Model of Perception and Scientific Discovery in a Very Simple World, Aiming at Psychological Realism

Overview V1

Plausible Approach V1

Plausible Approach V2

Object Identification V1

Object Identification V2

Object Identification V3

Object Identification V4

Object Identification V5

Same Angle V1

Same Angle V2

Ambiguous Event V1

Ambiguous Event V2

Direction Parameter V1

Direction Parameter V2

Direction Parameter V3

Direction Parameter V4

Direction Parameter V5

Stability V1

Stability V2

First Discovery 1

First Discovery 2

First Discovery 3

First Discovery 4

Pressure 1

Pressure 2

Pressure 3

Pressure 4

Kinetic Energy 1

Kinetic Energy 2

Kinetic Energy 3

Kinetic Energy 4

Free Space 1

Free Space 2

Free Space in a Circle (Tricycle)

Boyle’s Law Sophisticated A (Tricycle)

Boyle’s Law Sophisticated B (Tricycle)

Boyle’s Law Sophisticated C (Tricycle)

Non-ideal Gas A (non-success, Tricycle)

Non-ideal Gas B (Tricycle)

Non-ideal Gas C (Tricycle)

Understanding Noise (Tricycle)

Failed Discovery (Tricycle)

Thinking in Groups A (Tricycle)

Thinking in Groups B (Tricycle)

Effects of variation and prior knowledge on abstract concept learning

Braithwaite, D. W., & Goldstone, R. L., (2015). Effects of variation and prior knowledge on abstract concept learning. Cognition and Instruction, 33, 226-256.

Learning abstract concepts through concrete examples may promote learning at the cost of inhibiting transfer. The present study investigated one approach to solving this problem: systematically varying superficial features of the examples. Participants learned to solve problems involving a mathematical concept by studying either superficially similar or varied examples. In Experiment 1, less knowledgeable participants learned better from similar examples,while more knowledgeable participants learned better from varied examples. In Experiment 2, prior to learning how to solve the problems, some participants received a pretraining aimed at increasing attention to the structural relations underlying the target concept. These participants, like the more knowledgeable participants in Experiment 1, learned better from varied examples. Thus, the utility of varied examples depends on prior knowledge and, in particular, ability to attend to relevant structure. Increasing this ability can prepare learners to learn more effectively from varied examples.

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Integration of social information by human groups

Granovskiy, B., Gold, J. M., Sumpter, D., & Goldstone, R. L. (2015). Integration of social information by human groups. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7, 469-493.

We consider a situation in which individuals search for accurate decisions without direct feedback on¬†their accuracy, but with information about the decisions made by peers in their group. The ‚Äúwisdom of¬†crowds‚ÄĚ hypothesis states that the average judgment of many individuals can give a good estimate of, for¬†example, the outcomes of sporting events and the answers to trivia questions. Two conditions for the¬†application of wisdom of crowds are that estimates should be independent and unbiased. Here, we study¬†how individuals integrate social information when answering trivia questions with answers that range¬†between 0% and 100% (e.g., ‚ÄúWhat percentage of Americans are left-handed?‚ÄĚ). We find that, consistent¬†with the wisdom of crowds hypothesis, average performance improves with group size. However, individuals¬†show a consistent bias to produce estimates that are insufficiently extreme. We find that social¬†information provides significant, albeit small, improvement to group performance. Outliers with answers¬†far from the correct answer move toward the position of the group mean. Given that these outliers also¬†tend to be nearer to 50% than do the answers of other group members, this move creates group polarization¬†away from 50%. By looking at individual performance over different questions we find that some¬†people are more likely to be affected by social influence than others. There is also evidence that people¬†differ in their competence in answering questions, but lack of competence is not significantly correlated¬†with willingness to change guesses. We develop a mathematical model based on these results that postulates¬†a cognitive process in which people first decide whether to take into account peer guesses, and if so,¬†to move in the direction of these guesses. The size of the move is proportional to the distance between¬†their own guess and the average guess of the group. This model closely approximates the distribution of¬†guess movements and shows how outlying incorrect opinions can be systematically removed from a¬†group resulting, in some situations, in improved group performance. However, improvement is only predicted¬†for cases in which the initial guesses of individuals in the group are biased.

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Memory constraints affect statistical learning; statistical learning affects memory constraints

de Leeuw, J. R., & Goldstone, R. L. (2015).  Memory constraints affect statistical learning; statistical learning affects memory constraints.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 530-535).  Pasadena, CA: Cognitive Science Society.

We present evidence that successful chunk formation during a statistical learning task depends on how well the perceiver is able to parse the information that is presented between successive presentations of the to-be-learned chunk. First, we show that learners acquire a chunk better when the surrounding information is also chunk-able in a visual statistical learning task. We tested three process models of chunk formation, TRACX, PARSER, and MDLChunker, on our two different experimental conditions, and found that only PARSER and MDLChunker matched the observed result. These two models share the common principle of a memory capacity that is expanded as a result of learning. Though implemented in very different ways, both models effectively remember more individual items (the atomic components of a sequence) as additional chunks are formed. The ability to remember more information directly impacts learning in the models, suggesting that there is a positive-feedback loop in chunk learning.

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