Investigating the Explore/Exploit Trade-off in Adult Causal Inferences

Erik Herbst, Christopher Lucas, Daphna Buchsbaum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

We explore how adults learn counterintuitive causal relationships, and whether they discover hypotheses by revising their beliefs incrementally. We examined how adults learned a novel and unusual causal rule when presented with data that initially appeared to conform to a simpler, more salient rule. Adults watched a video of several blocks placed sequentially on a blicket detector, and were then asked to determine the underlying causal structure. In the near condition the true rule was complex, but could be found by making incremental improvements
to the simple and salient initial hypothesis. The distant condition was governed by a simpler rule, but to adopt that rule participants had to set aside their initial beliefs, rather than revising them incrementally. Adults performed better in the
near condition, despite this rule being more complex, providing some of the first evidence for an explore-exploit trade-off in inference, analogous to the trade-off in active learning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2017)
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)978-0-9911967-6-0
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2017
EventCogSci 2017: 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society - Hilton London Metropole, 225 Edgware Rd, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jul 201729 Jul 2017


ConferenceCogSci 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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