Talk by Carmen Saldana on August 1st 9.20h EST at this year’s 42nd Annual Virtual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, within the session called “Comparative and Cultural Cognition”. Title: "Rational After All: Changes in Probability Matching Behaviour Across Time in Humans and Monkeys".

The proceedings paper will be published closer to the conference dates and will send the link and reference then. Below the abstract:

Probability matching—where subjects given probabilistic input respond in a way that is proportional to those input probabilities—has long been thought to be characteristic of primate performance in probability learning tasks in a variety of contexts, from decision making to the learning of linguistic variation in humans. However, such behaviour is puzzling because it is not optimal in a decision theoretic sense; the optimal strategy is to always select the alternative with the highest positive-outcome probability, known as maximising (in decision making) or regularising (in linguistic tasks). While the tendency to probability match seems to depend somewhat on the participants and the task (i.e., infants are less likely to probability match than adults, monkeys probability match less than humans, and probability matching is less likely in linguistic tasks), existing studies suffer from a range of deficiencies which make it difficult to robustly assess these differences. In this paper we present three experiments which systematically test the development of probability matching behaviour over time in simple decision making tasks, across species (humans and Guinea baboons), task complexity, and task domain (linguistic vs non-linguistic). In Experiments 1 and 2 we show that adult humans and Guinea baboons exhibit similar behaviour in a non-linguistic decision-making task and, contrary to the prevailing view, a tendency to maximise (baboons) or significantly over-match (humans) rather than probability match, which strengthens over time and more so with greater task complexity; our non-human sample size (N = 20 baboons) is unprecedented in the probability-matching literature. Experiment 3 provides evidence against domain-specific probability learning mechanisms, showing that human subjects over-match high positive-outcome probabilities to a similar degree across linguistic and non-linguistic tasks. Our results suggest that previous studies may simply have insufficient trials to show maximising, or be too short to show maximising strategies which unfold over time. We thus provide evidence of shared probability learning mechanisms not only across linguistic and non-linguistic tasks but also across primate species.

More: http://42nd Annual Virtual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society

Martha Mariani