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What is Coded into Memory in the Absence of Outcome Feedback?
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2010 (English)In: Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory and Cognition, ISSN 0278-7393, E-ISSN 1939-1285, Vol. 36, no 1, 1-16 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

Although people often have to learn from environments with scarce and highly selective outcome feedback, the question of how non-feedback trials are represented in memory and affect later performance has received little attention in models of learning and decision making. In this article, the Generalized Context Model (R. M. Nosofsky, 1986) is used as a vehicle to test contrasting hypotheses about the coding of non-feedback trials. Data across 3 experiments with selective decision-contingent and selective outcome-contingent feedback provide support for the hypothesis of constructivist coding (E. Elwin, P. Juslin, H. Olsson, & T. Enkvist, 2007), according to which the outcomes on non-feedback trials are coded with the most likely outcome, as inferred by the individual. The relation to sampling-based approaches to judgment, and the adaptive significance of constructivist coding, are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 36, no 1, 1-16 p.
Keyword [en]
selective feedback, constructivist coding, generalized context model, base-rate bias
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-106876OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-106876DiVA: diva2:226980
Available from: 2009-07-08 Created: 2009-07-08 Last updated: 2015-04-17
In thesis
1. Learning With Selective Feedback: Effects on Performance and Coding of Unknown Outcomes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Learning With Selective Feedback: Effects on Performance and Coding of Unknown Outcomes
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In experiential learning, one important source of information is the feedback that people receive on the outcomes of their decisions. Typically, however, feedback is systematically absent for many decisions and the actual experience of people may therefore be highly selective. It is thus surprising that research on the cognitive processes involved in human judgement and categorisation has not addressed the effects of learning with selective feedback. In this thesis, three studies are presented in which the effects of learning with systematically selective feedback were investigated.

The hypothesis of constructivist coding was introduced in Study I, suggesting a cognitive mechanism for the processing of selective information. In the absence of external feedback people infer the most likely outcome, and then code this inference into memory as “internal feedback”. This internally generated feedback is stored and processed in the same manner as externally presented feedback and is used as a basis for beliefs about the characteristics of the environment. Results from Studies I, II, and III demonstrated support for constructivist coding under varied learning conditions.

Study III investigated the effects on the beliefs of participants when they learn from feedback received only for positive decisions. Results indicated that the participants’ beliefs well reflected their actual, however selective, experience. When participants aimed to achieve good immediate outcomes, their experience became restrictive and biased, resulting in biased beliefs. In contrast, when the focus of participants was on long-term learning, their decisions produced a more representative experience and their beliefs came to reflect the actual structure of the environment. Biased beliefs were thus demonstrated to result from a sensitivity of participants to selectively available information.

The present findings offer an understanding of the cognitive processes involved in learning from selectively absent feedback. The conclusions propose a sensitivity of participants to objectively experienced information in the forming of knowledge and beliefs. Further, when external information is absent, participants appear to rely on their knowledge and expectations to infer and code the most likely outcome, and use these stored inferences to form a coherent representation of the environment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2009. 86 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 51
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-106880 (URN)978-91-554-7568-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-09-18, Auditoriet, Gustavianum, Akademigatan 73, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2009-08-25 Created: 2009-07-08 Last updated: 2009-08-25Bibliographically approved
2. Human Rationality: Observing or Inferring Reality
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Human Rationality: Observing or Inferring Reality
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates the boundary of human rationality and how psychological processes interact with underlying regularities in the environment and affect beliefs and achievement. Two common modes in everyday experiential learning, supervised and unsupervised learning were hypothesized to tap different ecological and epistemological approaches to human adaptation; the Brunswikian and the Gibsonian approach. In addition, they were expected to be differentially effective for achievement depending on underlying regularities in the task environment. The first approach assumes that people use top-down processes and learn from hypothesis testing and external feedback, while the latter assumes that people are receptive to environmental stimuli and learn from bottom-up processes, without mediating inferences and support from external feedback, only exploratory observations and actions.

Study I investigates selective supervised learning and showed that biased beliefs arise when people store inferences about category members when information is partially absent. This constructivist coding of pseudo-exemplars in memory yields a conservative bias in the relative frequency of targeted category members when the information is constrained by the decision maker’s own selective sampling behavior, suggesting that niche picking and risk aversion contribute to conservatism or inertia in human belief systems. However, a liberal bias in the relative frequency of targeted category members is more likely when information is constrained by the external environment. This result suggests that highly exaggerated beliefs and risky behaviors may be more likely in environments where information is systematically manipulated, for example when positive examples are highlighted to convey a favorable image while negative examples are systematically withheld from the public eye.

Study II provides support that the learning modes engage different processes. Supervised learning is more accurate in less complex linear task environments, while unsupervised learning is more accurate in complex nonlinear task environments. Study III provides further support for abstraction based on hypothesis testing in supervised learning, and abstraction based on receptive bottom-up processes in unsupervised learning that aimed to form ideal prototypes as highly valid reference points stored in memory. The studies support previous proposals that integrating the Brunswikian and the Gibsonian approach can broaden the scope of psychological research and scientific inquiry.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. 81 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 110
Keyword
supervised learning, unsupervised learning, adaptation, niche picking, prototypes, rules, exemplar memory.
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-246315 (URN)978-91-554-9185-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-04-24, Room 12:228, Blåsenhus, Von Kraemers Allé 1A, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2015-04-02 Created: 2015-03-05 Last updated: 2015-04-17

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Henriksson, Maria P.Elwin, EbbaJuslin, Peter

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