Analyzing human feature learning as nonparametric Bayesian inference

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 21 (NIPS 2008)

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Thomas Griffiths, Joseph Austerweil


Almost all successful machine learning algorithms and cognitive models require powerful representations capturing the features that are relevant to a particular problem. We draw on recent work in nonparametric Bayesian statistics to define a rational model of human feature learning that forms a featural representation from raw sensory data without pre-specifying the number of features. By comparing how the human perceptual system and our rational model use distributional and category information to infer feature representations, we seek to identify some of the forces that govern the process by which people separate and combine sensory primitives to form features.