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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.01230

Analyzing abstraction and hierarchical decision-making in absolute identification by information-theoretic bounded rationality

  • 1University of Ulm, Germany
  • 2Institute of Neural Information Processing, Faculty of Engineering, Computer Science and Psychology, University of Ulm, Germany

In the face of limited computational resources, bounded rational decision theory predicts that information-processing should be concentrated on actions that make a significant contribution in terms of the utility achieved. Accordingly, information-processing can be simplified by choosing stereotypic actions that lead to satisfactory performance over a range of different inputs rather than choosing a specific action for each input. Such a set of similar inputs with similar action responses would then correspond to an abstraction that can be harnessed with possibly negligible loss in utility, but with potentially considerable savings in information-processing effort. Here we test this prediction in an identification task, where human subjects were asked to estimate the roundness of ellipses varying from a straight line to a perfect circle. Crucially, when reporting their estimates, subjects could choose between three different levels of precision corresponding to three levels of abstraction in a decision-making hierarchy. To induce changes in level selection, we manipulated the information-processing resources available at the perceptual and action stages by varying the difficulty of identifying the stimulus and by enforcing different response times in the action stage. In line with theoretical predictions, we find that subjects adapt their abstraction level depending on the available resources. We compare subjects' behavior to the maximum efficiency predicated by the bounded rational decision-making model and investigate possible sources of inefficiency.

Keywords: Bounded rationality (BR), absolute identification, decision-making, abstraction, hierarchical information processing

Received: 17 Jun 2019; Accepted: 31 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Lindig-Leon, Gottwald and Braun. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Cecilia Lindig-Leon, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany, cecilia.lindig-leon@uni-ulm.de