Marr's levels of analysis—computational, algorithmic, and implementation—have served cognitive science well over the last 30 years. But the recent increase in the popularity of the computational level raises a new challenge: How do we begin to relate models at different levels of analysis? We propose that it is possible to define levels of analysis that lie between the computational and the algorithmic, providing a way to build a bridge between computational- and algorithmic-level models. The key idea is to push the (...) notion of rationality, often used in defining computational-level models, deeper toward the algorithmic level. We offer a simple recipe for reverse-engineering the mind's cognitive strategies by deriving optimal algorithms for a series of increasingly more realistic abstract computational architectures, which we call “resource-rational analysis.”. (shrink)
Is language understanding a special case of social cognition? To help evaluate this view, we can formalize it as the rational speech-act theory: Listeners assume that speakers choose their utterances approximately optimally, and listeners interpret an utterance by using Bayesian inference to “invert” this model of the speaker. We apply this framework to model scalar implicature (“some” implies “not all,” and “N” implies “not more than N”). This model predicts an interaction between the speaker's knowledge state and the listener's interpretation. (...) We test these predictions in two experiments and find good fit between model predictions and human judgments. (shrink)
We derive a probabilistic account of the vagueness and context-sensitivity of scalar adjectives from a Bayesian approach to communication and interpretation. We describe an iterated-reasoning architecture for pragmatic interpretation and illustrate it with a simple scalar implicature example. We then show how to enrich the apparatus to handle pragmatic reasoning about the values of free variables, explore its predictions about the interpretation of scalar adjectives, and show how this model implements Edgington’s Vagueness: a reader, 1997) account of the sorites paradox, (...) with variations. The Bayesian approach has a number of explanatory virtues: in particular, it does not require any special-purpose machinery for handling vagueness, and it is integrated with a promising new approach to pragmatics and other areas of cognitive science. (shrink)
Hierarchical Bayesian models (HBMs) provide an account of Bayesian inference in a hierarchically structured hypothesis space. Scientific theories are plausibly regarded as organized into hierarchies in many cases, with higher levels sometimes called ‘paradigms’ and lower levels encoding more specific or concrete hypotheses. Therefore, HBMs provide a useful model for scientific theory change, showing how higher‐level theory change may be driven by the impact of evidence on lower levels. HBMs capture features described in the Kuhnian tradition, particularly the idea that (...) higher‐level theories guide learning at lower levels. In addition, they help resolve certain issues for Bayesians, such as scientific preference for simplicity and the problem of new theories. *Received July 2009; revised October 2009. †To contact the authors, please write to: Leah Henderson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, 32D‐808, Cambridge, MA 02139; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
Learning to understand a single causal system can be an achievement, but humans must learn about multiple causal systems over the course of a lifetime. We present a hierarchical Bayesian framework that helps to explain how learning about several causal systems can accelerate learning about systems that are subsequently encountered. Given experience with a set of objects, our framework learns a causal model for each object and a causal schema that captures commonalities among these causal models. The schema organizes the (...) objects into categories and specifies the causal powers and characteristic features of these categories and the characteristic causal interactions between categories. A schema of this kind allows causal models for subsequent objects to be rapidly learned, and we explore this accelerated learning in four experiments. Our results confirm that humans learn rapidly about the causal powers of novel objects, and we show that our framework accounts better for our data than alternative models of causal learning. (shrink)
We combine two recent probabilistic approaches to natural language understanding, exploring the formal pragmatics of communication on a noisy channel. We first extend a model of rational communication between a speaker and listener, to allow for the possibility that messages are corrupted by noise. In this model, common knowledge of a noisy channel leads to the use and correct understanding of sentence fragments. A further extension of the model, which allows the speaker to intentionally reduce the noise rate on a (...) word, is used to model prosodic emphasis. We show that the model derives several well-known changes in meaning associated with prosodic emphasis. Our results show that nominal amounts of actual noise can be leveraged for communicative purposes. (shrink)
Humor plays an essential role in human interactions. Precisely what makes something funny, however, remains elusive. While research on natural language understanding has made significant advancements in recent years, there has been little direct integration of humor research with computational models of language understanding. In this paper, we propose two information-theoretic measures—ambiguity and distinctiveness—derived from a simple model of sentence processing. We test these measures on a set of puns and regular sentences and show that they correlate significantly with human (...) judgments of funniness. Moreover, within a set of puns, the distinctiveness measure distinguishes exceptionally funny puns from mediocre ones. Our work is the first, to our knowledge, to integrate a computational model of general language understanding and humor theory to quantitatively predict humor at a fine-grained level. We present it as an example of a framework for applying models of language processing to understand higher level linguistic and cognitive phenomena. (shrink)
Machines that learn and think like people must be able to learn from others. Social learning speeds up the learning process and – in combination with language – is a gateway to abstract and unobservable information. Social learning also facilitates the accumulation of knowledge across generations, helping people and artificial intelligences learn things that no individual could learn in a lifetime.