skip to main content

T&C Chen Center for Social and Decision Neuroscience Seminar

Thursday, March 4, 2021
10:00am to 11:00am
Add to Cal
Online Event
Thinking the Right Thoughts
Nathaniel Daw, Huo Professor in Computational and Theoretical Neuroscience, Princeton University,


Abstract: In many learning and decision scenarios, especially sequential settings like mazes or games, it is easy to state an objective function but difficult to compute it, for instance because this can require enumerating many possible future trajectories. This, in turn, motivates a variety of more tractable approximations which then raise resource-rationality questions about whether and when an efficient agent should invest time or resources in computing decision variables more accurately. 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.

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.

For more information, or if you are interested in attending this online seminar, please contact Liz Schroeder by email at [email protected].