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Toward a Formal Theory of Proactivity




Beyond merely reacting to their environment and impulses, people have the remarkable capacity to proactively set and pursue their own goals. But the extent to which they leverage this capacity varies widely across people and situations. The goal of this article is to make the mechanisms and variability of proactivity more amenable to rigorous experiments and computational modeling. We proceed in three steps. First, we develop and validate a mathematically precise behavioral measure of proactivity and reactivity that can be applied across a wide range of experimental paradigms. Second, we propose a formal definition of proactivity and reactivity, and develop a computational model of proactivity in the AX Continuous Performance Task (AX-CPT). Third, we develop and test a computational-level theory of meta-control over proactivity in the AX-CPT that identifies three distinct meta-decision-making problems: intention setting, resolving response conflict between intentions and automaticity, and deciding whether to recall context and intentions into working memory. People's response frequencies in the AX-CPT were remarkably well captured by a mixture between the predictions of our models of proactive and reactive control. Empirical data from an experiment varying the incentives and contextual load of an AX-CPT confirmed the predictions of our meta-control model of individual differences in proactivity. Our results suggest that proactivity can be understood in terms of computational models of meta-control. Our model makes additional empirically testable predictions. Future work will extend our models from proactive control in the AX-CPT to proactive goal creation and goal pursuit in the real world.

Author(s): Falk Lieder and Gabriela Iwama
Year: 2020
Month: January

Department(s): Rationality Enhancement
Research Project(s): Toward a Formal Theory of Proactivity
Bibtex Type: Article (article)

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.26484.30081
Language: English
State: Submitted

Links: Toward a formal theory of proactivity


  title = {Toward a Formal Theory of Proactivity},
  author = {Lieder, Falk and Iwama, Gabriela},
  month = jan,
  year = {2020},
  month_numeric = {1}