Cognitive mechanisms for human flocking dynamics

Frey, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018).  Cognitive mechanisms for human flocking dynamics.  Journal of Computational Social Science.

Low-level “adaptive” and higher-level “sophisticated” human reasoning processes have been proposed to play opposing roles in the emergence of unpredictable collective behaviors such as crowd panics, traffic jams, and market bubbles. While adaptive processes are widely recognized drivers of emergent social complexity, complementary theories of sophistication predict that incentives, education, and other inducements to rationality will suppress it. We show in a series of multiplayer laboratory experiments that, rather than suppressing complex social dynamics, sophisticated reasoning processes can drive them. Our experiments elicit an endogenous collective behavior and show that it is driven by the human ability to recursively anticipate the reasoning of others. We identify this behavior, “sophisticated flocking”, across three games, the Beauty Contest and the “Mod Game” and “Runway Game”. In supporting our argument, we also present evidence for mental models and social norms constraining how players express their higher-level reasoning abilities. By implicating sophisticated recursive reasoning in the kind of complex dynamic that it has been predicted to suppress, we support interdisciplinary perspectives that emergent complexity is typical of even the most intelligent populations and carefully designed social systems.

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Bias to (and away from) the Extreme: Comparing Two Models of Categorical Perception Effects

Best, R. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (in press). Bias to (and away from) the Extreme: Comparing Two Models of Categorical Perception Effects.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

Categorical Perception (CP) effects manifest as faster or more accurate discrimination between objects that come from different categories compared to objects that come from the same category, controlling for the physical differences between the objects. The most popular explanations of CP effects have relied on perceptual warping causing stimuli near a category boundary to appear more similar to stimuli within their own category and/ or less similar to stimuli from other categories. Hanley and Roberson (2011), on the basis of a pattern not previously noticed in CP experiments, proposed an explanation of CP effects that relies not on perceptual warping, but instead on inconsistent usage of category labels. Experiments 1 and 2 in this paper show a pattern opposite the one Hanley and Roberson pointed out. Experiment 3, using the same stimuli but with different choice statistics (i.e., different probabilities of each face being the target), obtains the same pattern as the one Hanley and Roberson showed. Simulations show that both category label and perceptual models are able to reproduce the patterns of results from both experiments, provided they include information about the choice statistics. This suggests two conclusions. First, the results described by Hanley and Roberson should not be taken as evidence in favor of a category label model. Second, given that participants did not receive feedback on their choices, there must be some mechanism by which participants monitor their own choices and adapt to the choice statistics present in the experiment.

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Embedding experiments:  staking causal inference in authentic educational contexts

Motz, B. A., Carvalho, P. F., de Leeuw, J. R., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018).  Embedding experiments:  staking causal inference in authentic educational contexts.  Journal of Learning Analytics,5, 47-59. doi: 10.18608/jla.2018.52.4

To identify the ways teachers and educational systems can improve learning, researchers need to make causal inferences. Analyses of existing datasets play an important role in detecting causal patterns, but conducting experiments also plays an indispensable role in this research. In this article, we advocate for experiments to be embedded in real educational contexts, allowing researchers to test whether interventions such as a learning activity, new technology, or advising strategy elicit reliable improvements in authentic student behaviours and educational outcomes. Embedded experiments, wherein theoretically relevant variables are systematically manipulated in real learning contexts, carry strong benefits for making causal inferences, particularly when allied with the data rich resources of contemporary e-learning environments. Toward this goal, we offer a field guide to embedded experimentation, reviewing experimental design choices, addressing ethical concerns, discussing the importance of involving teachers, and reviewing how interventions can be deployed in a variety of contexts, at a range of scales. Causal inference is a critical component of a field that aims to improve student learning; including experimentation alongside analyses of existing data in learning analytics is the most compelling way to test causal claims. 

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Models of human scientific discovery

Goldstone, R. L., Gopnik, A., Thagard, P., & Ullman, T. D. (2018).  Models of human scientific discovery.  Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 29-30). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

The scientific understanding of scientific understanding has been a long-standing goal of cognitive science. A satisfying formal model of human scientific discovery would be a major intellectual achievement, requiring solutions to core problems in cognitive science: the creation and use of apt mental models, the prediction of the behavior of complex systems involving interactions between multiple classes of elements, high-level perception of noisy and multiply interpretable environments, and the active interrogation of a system through strategic interventions on it – namely, via experiments. Over the past decades there have been numerous attempts to build formal models that capture what Perkins (1981) calls some of the “mind’s best work” – scientific explanations for how the natural world works by systematic observation, prediction, and testing. Early work by Hebert Simon and his colleagues (Langley, Simon, Bradshaw, & Zytkow, 1987) developed production rule systems employing heuristics to tame extremely large conjoint search spaces of experiments to run and hypotheses to test. Qualitative physics approaches seek to understand physical phenomena by building non-numeric, relational models of the phenomena (Forbus, 1984). Some early connectionist models interpreted scientific explanation in terms of emerging patterns of strongly activated hypotheses that mutually support one another (Thagard, 1992).

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Data visualization as a domain to research areas in cognitive science

McColeman, C., Michal, A., Goldstone, R. l., Schloss, K., Kaminski, J., & Hullman, J. (2018).  Data visualization as a domain to research areas in cognitive science.  Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 35-36). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

 How people are able to turn information in the environment into meaning is a critical question for cognitive science. That environment is increasingly data-driven. Using data to inform decisions and improve understanding of the world is a valuable component of critical thinking, and serves as the foundation of evidence-based decision making. Designing graphical representations can make those data more accessible, such that users may engage the visual system and capacity for visual pattern recognition to discern regularities and properties of data. We ultimately want to understand the connection between the initial perception of data visualizations and conceptual understanding of information. Data visualizations, broadly, are the representation of recorded values in visual form, including scientific visualizations such as brain scans, or live visualizations such as stock market monitoring; the work discussed through this symposium is of the type used in science, business, and medical settings to display data abstractly.

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Sharing is not erring: Pseudo-reciprocity in collective search

Bouhlel, I., Wu, C. M., Hanaki, N., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018). Sharing is not erring: Pseudo-reciprocity in collective search. Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 156-161). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

Information sharing in competitive environments may seem counterintuitive, yet it is widely observed in humans and other animals. For instance, the open-source software movement has led to new and valuable technologies being released publicly to facilitate broader collaboration and further innovation. What drives this behavior and under which conditions can it be beneficial for an individual? Using simulations in both static and dynamic environments, we show that sharing information can lead to individual benefits through the mechanisms of pseudoreciprocity, whereby shared information leads to by-product benefits for an individual without the need for explicit reciprocation. Crucially, imitation with a certain level of innovation is required to avoid a tragedy of the commons, while the mechanism of a local visibility radius allows for the coordination of self-organizing collectives of agents. When these two mechanisms are present, we find robust evidence for the benefits of sharing—even when others do not reciprocate.

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Visual flexibility in arithmetic expressions

Yu, J., Landy, D., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018). Visual flexibility in arithmetic expressions.  Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 2750-2755). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

 We investigated whether, and in what, ways people use visual structures to evaluate mathematical expressions. We also explored the relationship between strategy use and other common measures in mathematics education. Participants organized long sum/products when visual structure was available in algebraic expressions. Two experiments showed a similar pattern: One group of participants primarily calculated from left to right, or combined identical numbers together. A second group calculated adjacent pairs. A third group tended to group terms which either produced easy sums (e.g., 6+4), or participated in a global structure. These different strategies were associated with different levels of success on the task, and, in Experiment 2, with differential math anxiety and mathematical skill. Specifically, problem solvers with lower math anxiety and higher math ability tend to group by chunks and easy calculation. These results identify an important role for the perception of coherent structure and pattern identification in mathematical reasoning. 

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Experientially grounded learning about the roles of variability, sample size, and difference between means in statistical reasoning

Yu, J., Goldstone, R. L., & Landy, D. (2018). Experientially grounded learning about the roles of variability, sample size, and difference between means in statistical reasoning.  Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 2744-2749). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

 Despite its omnipresence in this information-laden society, statistics is hard. The present study explored the applicability of a grounded cognition approach to learning basic statistical concepts. Participants in 2 experiments interacted with perceptually rich computer simulations designed to foster understanding of the relations between fundamental statistical concepts and to promote the ability to reason with statistics. During training, participants were asked to estimate the probability of two samples coming from the same population, with sample size, variability, and difference between means independently manipulated. The amount of learning during training was measured by the difference between participants’ confidence judgments and those of an Ideal Observer. The amount of transfer was assessed by the increase in accuracy from a pretest to a posttest. Learning and transfer were observed when tailored guidance was given along with the perceptually salient properties. Implications of our quantitative measures of human sensitivity to statistical concepts were discussed.

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Science map metaphors: a comparison of network versus hexmap-based visualizations

Börner, K. Simpson, A. H., Bueckle, A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018).  Science map metaphors: a comparison of network versus hexmap-based visualizations.  Scientometrics, 114, 409-426.

Most maps of science use a network layout; few use a landscape metaphor. Human users are trained in reading geospatial maps, yet most have a hard time reading even simple networks. Prior work using general networks has shown that map-based visualizations increase recall accuracy of data. This paper reports the result of a comparison of two comparable renderings of the UCSD map of science that are: the original network layout and a novel hexmap that uses a landscape metaphor to layout the 554 subdisciplines grouped into 13 color-coded disciplines of science. Overlaid are HITS metrics that show the impact and transformativeness of different scientific subdisciplines. Both maps support the same interactivity, including search, filter, zoom, panning, and details on demand. Users performed memorization, search, and retrieval tasks using both maps. Results did not show any significant differences in how the two maps were remembered or used by participants. We conclude with a discussion of results and planned future work.

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