Past Event

Adam Sanborn - Bayesian Brains Without Possibilities

March 28, 2019
4:15 PM - 5:30 PM
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Jerome L. Greene Science Center (9th Floor), Columbia University, 3227 Broadway, New York

Event Description:

Over the past two decades, a wave of Bayesian explanations has swept through cognitive science, explaining behavior in domains from intuitive physics and causal learning, to perception, motor control and language. Yet people produce stunningly incorrect answers in response to even the simplest questions about probabilities. How can a supposedly Bayesian brain paradoxically reason so poorly with probabilities? Perhaps Bayesian brains do not represent or calculate probabilities at all and are, indeed, poorly adapted to do so. Instead the brain could be approximating Bayesian inference through sampling: drawing samples from its distribution of likely hypotheses over time. Only with infinite samples does a Bayesian sampler conform to the laws of probability, and in this talk Adam Sanborn shows how reasoning with a finite number of samples systematically generates classic probabilistic reasoning errors in individuals, upending the longstanding consensus on these effects. He then presents work testing whether people sample when producing numeric estimates, and discuss what kind of sampling algorithm the brain might be using.

Event Speaker:

Dr. Adam Sanborn is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Warwick. He gained his PhD in psychological & brain sciences and cognitive science at Indiana University, and did his postdoctoral work at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at UCL. Adam is interested in the rationality of human behaviour, which he studies with Bayesian models, approximations to Bayesian models, and behavioural experiments. His research has been published in leading psychology journals such as Psychological Review, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, and Cognitive Psychology, and he has won best paper awards in both psychology and computer science. He recently completed a three-year project funded by the ESRC and serves as Associate Editor for the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

Event Information:

This event is part of the Cognition and Decision Seminar Series at the Columbia Business School's Center for Decision Sciences. All attendees must register using the sign up link below in order to gain access to the Jerome L. Greene Science Center.