Human behavior is inherently hierarchical, resulting from the decomposition of a task into subtasks or an abstract action into concrete actions. However, behavior is typically measured as a sequence of actions, which makes it difficult to infer its hierarchical structure. In this paper, we explore how people form hierarchically-structured plans, using an experimental paradigm that makes hierarchical representations observable: participants create programs that produce sequences of actions in a language with explicit hierarchical structure. This task lets us test two well-established principles of human behavior: utility maximization (i.e. using fewer actions) and minimum description length (MDL; i.e. having a shorter program). We find that humans are sensitive to both metrics, but that both accounts fail to predict a qualitative feature of human-created programs, namely that people prefer programs with reuse over and above the predictions of MDL. We formalize this preference for reuse by extending the MDL account into a generative model over programs, modeling hierarchy choice as the induction of a grammar over actions. Our account can explain the preference for reuse and provides the best prediction of human behavior, going beyond simple accounts of compressibility to highlight a principle that guides hierarchical planning.
Most applications of machine learning to classification assume a closed set of balanced classes. This is at odds with the real world, where class occurrence statistics often follow a long-tailed power-law distribution and it is unlikely that all classes are seen in a single sample. Nonparametric Bayesian models naturally capture this phenomenon, but have significant practical barriers to widespread adoption, namely implementation complexity and computational inefficiency. To address this, we present a method for extracting the inductive bias from a nonparametric Bayesian model and transferring it to an artificial neural network. By simulating data with a nonparametric Bayesian prior, we can metalearn a sequence model that performs inference over an unlimited set of classes. After training, this "neural circuit" has distilled the corresponding inductive bias and can successfully perform sequential inference over an open set of classes. Our experimental results show that the metalearned neural circuit achieves comparable or better performance than particle filter-based methods for inference in these models while being faster and simpler to use than methods that explicitly incorporate Bayesian nonparametric inference.
Bayesian filtering approximates the true underlying behavior of a time-varying system by inverting an explicit generative model to convert noisy measurements into state estimates. This process typically requires either storage, inversion, and multiplication of large matrices or Monte Carlo estimation, neither of which are practical in high-dimensional state spaces such as the weight spaces of artificial neural networks. Here, we frame the standard Bayesian filtering problem as optimization over a time-varying objective. Instead of maintaining matrices for the filtering equations or simulating particles, we specify an optimizer that defines the Bayesian filter implicitly. In the linear-Gaussian setting, we show that every Kalman filter has an equivalent formulation using K steps of gradient descent. In the nonlinear setting, our experiments demonstrate that our framework results in filters that are effective, robust, and scalable to high-dimensional systems, comparing well against the standard toolbox of Bayesian filtering solutions. We suggest that it is easier to fine-tune an optimizer than it is to specify the correct filtering equations, making our framework an attractive option for high-dimensional filtering problems.
The success of methods based on artificial neural networks in creating intelligent machines seems like it might pose a challenge to explanations of human cognition in terms of Bayesian inference. We argue that this is not the case, and that in fact these systems offer new opportunities for Bayesian modeling. Specifically, we argue that Bayesian models of cognition and artificial neural networks lie at different levels of analysis and are complementary modeling approaches, together offering a way to understand human cognition that spans these levels. We also argue that the same perspective can be applied to intelligent machines, where a Bayesian approach may be uniquely valuable in understanding the behavior of large, opaque artificial neural networks that are trained on proprietary data.
We explore the creative problem-solving capabilities of modern large language models (LLMs) in a constrained setting. The setting requires circumventing a cognitive bias known in psychology as ''functional fixedness'' to use familiar objects in innovative or unconventional ways. To this end, we create MacGyver, an automatically generated dataset consisting of 1,600 real-world problems that deliberately trigger functional fixedness and require thinking 'out-of-the-box'. We then present our collection of problems to both LLMs and humans to compare and contrast their problem-solving abilities. We show that MacGyver is challenging for both groups, but in unique and complementary ways. For example, humans typically excel in solving problems that they are familiar with but may struggle with tasks requiring domain-specific knowledge, leading to a higher variance. On the other hand, LLMs, being exposed to a variety of highly specialized knowledge, attempt broader problems but are prone to overconfidence and propose actions that are physically infeasible or inefficient. We also provide a detailed error analysis of LLMs, and demonstrate the potential of enhancing their problem-solving ability with novel prompting techniques such as iterative step-wise reflection and divergent-convergent thinking. This work provides insight into the creative problem-solving capabilities of humans and AI and illustrates how psychological paradigms can be extended into large-scale tasks for comparing humans and machines.
How do we communicate with others to achieve our goals? We use our prior experience or advice from others, or construct a candidate utterance by predicting how it will be received. However, our experiences are limited and biased, and reasoning about potential outcomes can be difficult and cognitively challenging. In this paper, we explore how we can leverage Large Language Model (LLM) simulations to help us communicate better. We propose the Explore-Generate-Simulate (EGS) framework, which takes as input any scenario where an individual is communicating to an audience with a goal they want to achieve. EGS (1) explores the solution space by producing a diverse set of advice relevant to the scenario, (2) generates communication candidates conditioned on subsets of the advice, and (3) simulates the reactions from various audiences to determine both the best candidate and advice to use. We evaluate the framework on eight scenarios spanning the ten fundamental processes of interpersonal communication. For each scenario, we collect a dataset of human evaluations across candidates and baselines, and showcase that our framework's chosen candidate is preferred over popular generation mechanisms including Chain-of-Thought. We also find that audience simulations achieve reasonably high agreement with human raters across 5 of the 8 scenarios. Finally, we demonstrate the generality of our framework by applying it to real-world scenarios described by users on web forums. Through evaluations and demonstrations, we show that EGS enhances the effectiveness and outcomes of goal-oriented communication across a variety of situations, thus opening up new possibilities for the application of large language models in revolutionizing communication and decision-making processes.
Biological and artificial information processing systems form representations that they can use to categorize, reason, plan, navigate, and make decisions. How can we measure the extent to which the representations formed by these diverse systems agree? Do similarities in representations then translate into similar behavior? How can a system's representations be modified to better match those of another system? These questions pertaining to the study of representational alignment are at the heart of some of the most active research areas in cognitive science, neuroscience, and machine learning. For example, cognitive scientists measure the representational alignment of multiple individuals to identify shared cognitive priors, neuroscientists align fMRI responses from multiple individuals into a shared representational space for group-level analyses, and ML researchers distill knowledge from teacher models into student models by increasing their alignment. Unfortunately, there is limited knowledge transfer between research communities interested in representational alignment, so progress in one field often ends up being rediscovered independently in another. Thus, greater cross-field communication would be advantageous. To improve communication between these fields, we propose a unifying framework that can serve as a common language between researchers studying representational alignment. We survey the literature from all three fields and demonstrate how prior work fits into this framework. Finally, we lay out open problems in representational alignment where progress can benefit all three of these fields. We hope that our work can catalyze cross-disciplinary collaboration and accelerate progress for all communities studying and developing information processing systems. We note that this is a working paper and encourage readers to reach out with their suggestions for future revisions.
Value alignment is essential for building AI systems that can safely and reliably interact with people. However, what a person values -- and is even capable of valuing -- depends on the concepts that they are currently using to understand and evaluate what happens in the world. The dependence of values on concepts means that concept alignment is a prerequisite for value alignment -- agents need to align their representation of a situation with that of humans in order to successfully align their values. Here, we formally analyze the concept alignment problem in the inverse reinforcement learning setting, show how neglecting concept alignment can lead to systematic value mis-alignment, and describe an approach that helps minimize such failure modes by jointly reasoning about a person's concepts and values. Additionally, we report experimental results with human participants showing that humans reason about the concepts used by an agent when acting intentionally, in line with our joint reasoning model.
How are people able to plan so efficiently despite limited cognitive resources? We aimed to answer this question by extending an existing model of human task decomposition that can explain a wide range of simple planning problems by adding structure information to the task to facilitate planning in more complex tasks. The extended model was then applied to a more complex planning domain of spatial navigation. Our results suggest that our framework can correctly predict the navigation strategies of the majority of the participants in an online experiment.