Event Abstract

Adaptation and criticality in human control behaviour.

  • 1 Centre for Cognitive Sciences, Germany
  • 2 University of Bremen, Institute for Theoretical Physics, Germany

When humans perform closed-loop control tasks like in upright standing or while balancing a stick, their behaviour exhibits non-Gaussian fluctuations with long-tailed distributions. The statistics of these fluctuations suggests a fine-tuning of the underlying system to a critical point. Similar fluctuations are also found in collective behaviour of humans, for example in stock market log-return fluctuations. The high probability of extreme events associated with scale free fluctuations may in these cases appear inefficient or irrational. Existing explanations for critical fluctuations typically rely on either high-dimensional systems with non-linear interactions (Self-organized criticality) or fine-tuning a systems parameters to a stability boundary (intermittency).
We investigated whether self-tuning may be caused by the annihilation of local predictive information due to success of control. We found that this mechanism turns the critical point into an attractor of the systems dynamics even in very low-dimensional state estimation tasks. It generally emerges when a locally adaptive controller removes information about the dynamics of a system by exploiting it.
To test this theory, we performed psychophysical experiments where humans balanced an unstable target on a computer screen. It turned out, that a realistic model of adaptive closed-loop control including constraints on memory and delays reproduces many characteristics of the human control dynamics.
Our theory also provides a simple demonstration on how rational behaviour under certain constraints can cause criticality.

Conference: Computations, Decisions and Movement, Giessen, Germany, 19 May - 22 May, 2010.

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation

Topic: Posters

Citation: Patzelt F and Pawelzik K (2010). Adaptation and criticality in human control behaviour.. Front. Comput. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: Computations, Decisions and Movement. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnins.2010.01.00016

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Received: 01 Feb 2010; Published Online: 01 Feb 2010.

* Correspondence: Felix Patzelt, Centre for Cognitive Sciences, Bremen, Germany, felix@neuro.uni-bremen.de