Bayesian models of human action understanding

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 18 (NIPS 2005)

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Chris Baker, Rebecca Saxe, Joshua Tenenbaum


We present a Bayesian framework for explaining how people reason about and predict the actions of an intentional agent, based on observ- ing its behavior. Action-understanding is cast as a problem of inverting a probabilistic generative model, which assumes that agents tend to act rationally in order to achieve their goals given the constraints of their en- vironment. Working in a simple sprite-world domain, we show how this model can be used to infer the goal of an agent and predict how the agent will act in novel situations or when environmental constraints change. The model provides a qualitative account of several kinds of inferences that preverbal infants have been shown to perform, and also fits quantita- tive predictions that adult observers make in a new experiment.