Sequential effects reflect parallel learning of multiple environmental regularities

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 22 (NIPS 2009)

Bibtex Metadata Paper


Matthew Wilder, Matt Jones, Michael C. Mozer


Across a wide range of cognitive tasks, recent experience influences behavior. For example, when individuals repeatedly perform a simple two-alternative forced-choice task (2AFC), response latencies vary dramatically based on the immediately preceding trial sequence. These sequential effects have been interpreted as adaptation to the statistical structure of an uncertain, changing environment (e.g. Jones & Sieck, 2003; Mozer, Kinoshita, & Shettel, 2007; Yu & Cohen, 2008). The Dynamic Belief Model (DBM) (Yu & Cohen, 2008) explains sequential effects in 2AFC tasks as a rational consequence of a dynamic internal representation that tracks second-order statistics of the trial sequence (repetition rates) and predicts whether the upcoming trial will be a repetition or an alternation of the previous trial. Experimental results suggest that first-order statistics (base rates) also influence sequential effects. We propose a model that learns both first- and second-order sequence properties, each according to the basic principles of the DBM but under a unified inferential framework. This model, the Dynamic Belief Mixture Model (DBM2), obtains precise, parsimonious fits to data. Furthermore, the model predicts dissociations in behavioral (Maloney, Dal Martello, Sahm, & Spillmann, 2005) and electrophysiological studies (Jentzsch & Sommer, 2002), supporting the psychological and neurobiological reality of its two components.