Center Calendar

Action evaluation in sequential tasks: Habits and beyond (talk recording available)

Professor Nathaniel Daw

Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 01:00pm - 02:30pm

Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Department of Psychology

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To view a recording of this talk click here (You will need a Rutgers NetID and password)


In many tasks, such as mazes or chess, effective decision making typically requires enumerating the expected outcomes of candidate actions over a series of subsequent events. Because of the computational complexity of such evaluation, it is believed that human and animal brains use a range of shortcuts to simplify or approximate it. I review behavioral and neural evidence that humans rationally trade off exact and approximate evaluation in such sequential decision making. This research offers a new perspective on healthy behaviors, like habits, and pathological ones, like compulsion, which are both viewed as evaluations that fail to incorporate experiences relevant to a decision and instead rely on inappropriate or out-of-date evaluations. I also present new theoretical and experimental work that aims to address the the positive counterpart to such neglect: which particular events are considered, in which circumstances, to support choice. This brings the reach of the framework to many new phenomena, including pre-computation for future choices, nonlocal activity in the hippocampal place system, consolidation during sleep, and a new range of disordered symptoms such as craving, hallucinations, and rumination. 

Relevant Readings:

  1. Daphna Shohamy and Nathaniel D Daw (2015) - Integrating memories to guide decisions.
  2. Marcelo Gomes Mattar and Nathaniel D Daw (2018) - Prioritized memory access explains planning and hippocampal replay. 

The RuCCS Colloquia Series is organized by Dr. Julien Musolino and Dr. Sara Pixley. The talks are held on Tuesdays in the Psychology Building, Room 101 on the Busch Campus from 1:00-2:30pm.

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Professor Nathaniel Daw