Studies of sequential decision-making in humans frequently find suboptimal performance relative to an ideal actor that has perfect knowledge of the model of how rewards and events are generated in the environment. Rather than being suboptimal, we argue that the learning problem humans face is more complex, in that it also involves learning the structure of reward generation in the environment. We formulate the problem of structure learning in sequential decision tasks using Bayesian reinforcement learning, and show that learning the generative model for rewards qualitatively changes the behavior of an optimal learning agent. To test whether people exhibit structure learning, we performed experiments involving a mixture of one-armed and two-armed bandit reward models, where structure learning produces many of the qualitative behaviors deemed suboptimal in previous studies. Our results demonstrate humans can perform structure learning in a near-optimal manner.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics