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2020


A Gamified App that Helps People Overcome Self-Limiting Beliefs by Promoting Metacognition
A Gamified App that Helps People Overcome Self-Limiting Beliefs by Promoting Metacognition

Amo, V., Lieder, F.

SIG 8 Meets SIG 16, September 2020 (conference) Accepted

Abstract
Previous research has shown that approaching learning with a growth mindset is key for maintaining motivation and overcoming setbacks. Mindsets are systems of beliefs that people hold to be true. They influence a person's attitudes, thoughts, and emotions when they learn something new or encounter challenges. In clinical psychology, metareasoning (reflecting on one's mental processes) and meta-awareness (recognizing thoughts as mental events instead of equating them to reality) have proven effective for overcoming maladaptive thinking styles. Hence, they are potentially an effective method for overcoming self-limiting beliefs in other domains as well. However, the potential of integrating assisted metacognition into mindset interventions has not been explored yet. Here, we propose that guiding and training people on how to leverage metareasoning and meta-awareness for overcoming self-limiting beliefs can significantly enhance the effectiveness of mindset interventions. To test this hypothesis, we develop a gamified mobile application that guides and trains people to use metacognitive strategies based on Cognitive Restructuring (CR) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) techniques. The application helps users to identify and overcome self-limiting beliefs by working with aversive emotions when they are triggered by fixed mindsets in real-life situations. Our app aims to help people sustain their motivation to learn when they face inner obstacles (e.g. anxiety, frustration, and demotivation). We expect the application to be an effective tool for helping people better understand and develop the metacognitive skills of emotion regulation and self-regulation that are needed to overcome self-limiting beliefs and develop growth mindsets.

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A gamified app that helps people overcome self-limiting beliefs by promoting metacognition [BibTex]


Optimal To-Do List Gamification
Optimal To-Do List Gamification

Stojcheski, J., Felso, V., Lieder, F.

arXiv, August 2020 (techreport)

Abstract
What should I work on first? What can wait until later? Which projects should I prioritize and which tasks are not worth my time? These are challenging questions that many people face every day. People’s intuitive strategy is to prioritize their immediate experience over the long-term consequences. This leads to procrastination and the neglect of important long-term projects in favor of seemingly urgent tasks that are less important. Optimal gamification strives to help people overcome these problems by incentivizing each task by a number of points that communicates how valuable it is in the long-run. Unfortunately, computing the optimal number of points with standard dynamic programming methods quickly becomes intractable as the number of a person’s projects and the number of tasks required by each project increase. Here, we introduce and evaluate a scalable method for identifying which tasks are most important in the long run and incentivizing each task according to its long-term value. Our method makes it possible to create to-do list gamification apps that can handle the size and complexity of people’s to-do lists in the real world.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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How to navigate everyday distractions: Leveraging optimal feedback to train attention control

Wirzberger, M., Lado, A., Eckerstorfer, L., Oreshnikov, I., Passy, J., Stock, A., Shenhav, A., Lieder, F.

Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, July 2020 (conference)

Abstract
To stay focused on their chosen tasks, people have to inhibit distractions. The underlying attention control skills can improve through reinforcement learning, which can be accelerated by giving feedback. We applied the theory of metacognitive reinforcement learning to develop a training app that gives people optimal feedback on their attention control while they are working or studying. In an eight-day field experiment with 99 participants, we investigated the effect of this training on people's productivity, sustained attention, and self-control. Compared to a control condition without feedback, we found that participants receiving optimal feedback learned to focus increasingly better (f = .08, p < .01) and achieved higher productivity scores (f = .19, p < .01) during the training. In addition, they evaluated their productivity more accurately (r = .12, p < .01). However, due to asymmetric attrition problems, these findings need to be taken with a grain of salt.

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How to navigate everyday distractions: Leveraging optimal feedback to train attention control DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Measuring the Costs of Planning

Felso, V., Jain, Y. R., Lieder, F.

CogSci 2020, July 2020 (poster) Accepted

Abstract
Which information is worth considering depends on how much effort it would take to acquire and process it. From this perspective people’s tendency to neglect considering the long-term consequences of their actions (present bias) might reflect that looking further into the future becomes increasingly more effortful. In this work, we introduce and validate the use of Bayesian Inverse Reinforcement Learning (BIRL) for measuring individual differences in the subjective costs of planning. We extend the resource-rational model of human planning introduced by Callaway, Lieder, et al. (2018) by parameterizing the cost of planning. Using BIRL, we show that increased subjective cost for considering future outcomes may be associated with both the present bias and acting without planning. Our results highlight testing the causal effects of the cost of planning on both present bias and mental effort avoidance as a promising direction for future work.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Leveraging Machine Learning to Automatically Derive Robust Planning Strategies from Biased Models of the Environment

Kemtur, A., Jain, Y. R., Mehta, A., Callaway, F., Consul, S., Stojcheski, J., Lieder, F.

CogSci 2020, July 2020, Anirudha Kemtur and Yash Raj Jain contributed equally to this publication. (conference)

Abstract
Teaching clever heuristics is a promising approach to improve decision-making. We can leverage machine learning to discover clever strategies automatically. Current methods require an accurate model of the decision problems people face in real life. But most models are misspecified because of limited information and cognitive biases. To address this problem we develop strategy discovery methods that are robust to model misspecification. Robustness is achieved by model-ing model-misspecification and handling uncertainty about the real-world according to Bayesian inference. We translate our methods into an intelligent tutor that automatically discovers and teaches robust planning strategies. Our robust cognitive tutor significantly improved human decision-making when the model was so biased that conventional cognitive tutors were no longer effective. These findings highlight that our robust strategy discovery methods are a significant step towards leveraging artificial intelligence to improve human decision-making in the real world.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Automatic Discovery of Interpretable Planning Strategies

Skirzyński, J., Becker, F., Lieder, F.

Machine Learning Journal, May 2020 (article) Submitted

Abstract
When making decisions, people often overlook critical information or are overly swayed by irrelevant information. A common approach to mitigate these biases is to provide decisionmakers, especially professionals such as medical doctors, with decision aids, such as decision trees and flowcharts. Designing effective decision aids is a difficult problem. We propose that recently developed reinforcement learning methods for discovering clever heuristics for good decision-making can be partially leveraged to assist human experts in this design process. One of the biggest remaining obstacles to leveraging the aforementioned methods for improving human decision-making is that the policies they learn are opaque to people. To solve this problem, we introduce AI-Interpret: a general method for transforming idiosyncratic policies into simple and interpretable descriptions. Our algorithm combines recent advances in imitation learning and program induction with a new clustering method for identifying a large subset of demonstrations that can be accurately described by a simple, high-performing decision rule. We evaluate our new AI-Interpret algorithm and employ it to translate information-acquisition policies discovered through metalevel reinforcement learning. The results of three large behavioral experiments showed that the provision of decision rules as flowcharts significantly improved people’s planning strategies and decisions across three different classes of sequential decision problems. Furthermore, a series of ablation studies confirmed that our AI-Interpret algorithm was critical to the discovery of interpretable decision rules and that it is ready to be applied to other reinforcement learning problems. We conclude that the methods and findings presented in this article are an important step towards leveraging automatic strategy discovery to improve human decision-making.

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Automatic Discovery of Interpretable Planning Strategies The code for our algorithm and the experiments is available Project Page [BibTex]


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Advancing Rational Analysis to the Algorithmic Level

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 43, E27, March 2020 (article)

Abstract
The commentaries raised questions about normativity, human rationality, cognitive architectures, cognitive constraints, and the scope or resource rational analysis (RRA). We respond to these questions and clarify that RRA is a methodological advance that extends the scope of rational modeling to understanding cognitive processes, why they differ between people, why they change over time, and how they could be improved.

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Advancing rational analysis to the algorithmic level DOI [BibTex]

Advancing rational analysis to the algorithmic level DOI [BibTex]


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Learning to Overexert Cognitive Control in a Stroop Task

Bustamante, L., Lieder, F., Musslick, S., Shenhav, A., Cohen, J.

Febuary 2020, Laura Bustamante and Falk Lieder contributed equally to this publication. (article) In revision

Abstract
How do people learn when to allocate how much cognitive control to which task? According to the Learned Value of Control (LVOC) model, people learn to predict the value of alternative control allocations from features of a given situation. This suggests that people may generalize the value of control learned in one situation to other situations with shared features, even when the demands for cognitive control are different. This makes the intriguing prediction that what a person learned in one setting could, under some circumstances, cause them to misestimate the need for, and potentially over-exert control in another setting, even if this harms their performance. To test this prediction, we had participants perform a novel variant of the Stroop task in which, on each trial, they could choose to either name the color (more control-demanding) or read the word (more automatic). However only one of these tasks was rewarded, it changed from trial to trial, and could be predicted by one or more of the stimulus features (the color and/or the word). Participants first learned colors that predicted the rewarded task. Then they learned words that predicted the rewarded task. In the third part of the experiment, we tested how these learned feature associations transferred to novel stimuli with some overlapping features. The stimulus-task-reward associations were designed so that for certain combinations of stimuli the transfer of learned feature associations would incorrectly predict that more highly rewarded task would be color naming, which would require the exertion of control, even though the actually rewarded task was word reading and therefore did not require the engagement of control. Our results demonstrated that participants over-exerted control for these stimuli, providing support for the feature-based learning mechanism described by the LVOC model.

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Learning to Overexert Cognitive Control in a Stroop Task DOI [BibTex]

Learning to Overexert Cognitive Control in a Stroop Task DOI [BibTex]


Toward a Formal Theory of Proactivity
Toward a Formal Theory of Proactivity

Lieder, F., Iwama, G.

January 2020 (article) Submitted

Abstract
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.

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Toward a formal theory of proactivity DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Resource-Rational Models of Human Goal Pursuit
Resource-Rational Models of Human Goal Pursuit

Prystawski, B., Mohnert, F., Tošić, M., Lieder, F.

2020 (article)

Abstract
Goal-directed behaviour is a deeply important part of human psychology. People constantly set goals for themselves and pursue them in many domains of life. In this paper, we develop computational models that characterize how humans pursue goals in a complex dynamic environment and test how well they describe human behaviour in an experiment. Our models are motivated by the principle of resource rationality and draw upon psychological insights about people's limited attention and planning capacities. We found that human goal pursuit is qualitatively different and substantially less efficient than optimal goal pursuit. Models of goal pursuit based on the principle of resource rationality captured human behavior better than both a model of optimal goal pursuit and heuristics that are not resource-rational. We conclude that human goal pursuit is jointly shaped by its function, the structure of the environment, and cognitive costs and constraints on human planning and attention. Our findings are an important step toward understanding humans goal pursuit, as cognitive limitations play a crucial role in shaping people's goal-directed behaviour.

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Resource-rational models of human goal pursuit DOI [BibTex]


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ACTrain: Ein KI-basiertes Aufmerksamkeitstraining für die Wissensarbeit [ACTrain: An AI-based attention training for knowledge work]

Wirzberger, M., Oreshnikov, I., Passy, J., Lado, A., Shenhav, A., Lieder, F.

66th Spring Conference of the German Ergonomics Society, 2020 (conference)

Abstract
Unser digitales Zeitalter lebt von Informationen und stellt unsere begrenzte Verarbeitungskapazität damit täglich auf die Probe. Gerade in der Wissensarbeit haben ständige Ablenkungen erhebliche Leistungseinbußen zur Folge. Unsere intelligente Anwendung ACTrain setzt genau an dieser Stelle an und verwandelt Computertätigkeiten in eine Trainingshalle für den Geist. Feedback auf Basis maschineller Lernverfahren zeigt anschaulich den Wert auf, sich nicht von einer selbst gewählten Aufgabe ablenken zu lassen. Diese metakognitive Einsicht soll zum Durchhalten motivieren und das zugrunde liegende Fertigkeitsniveau der Aufmerksamkeitskontrolle stärken. In laufenden Feldexperimenten untersuchen wir die Frage, ob das Training mit diesem optimalen Feedback die Aufmerksamkeits- und Selbstkontrollfertigkeiten im Vergleich zu einer Kontrollgruppe ohne Feedback verbessern kann.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]