CLPS News Archive

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Choice Bias: A Quirky Byproduct of Learning From Reward

The price of learning from rewarding choices may be just a touch of self-delusion, according to a new study in Neuron.

The research by Jeffrey Cockburn, a graduate student in the research group of senior author Michael Frank, links a fundamental problem in neuroscience called “credit assignment” — how the brain reinforces learning only in the exact circuits that caused the rewarding choice — to an oft-observed quirk of behavior called “choice bias” – we value the rewards we choose more than equivalent rewards we don’t choose. The researchers used computational modeling and behavioral and genetic experiments to discover evidence that choice bias is essentially a byproduct of credit assignment.

Read more about this research at the Brown News site.

Coaching Parents on Toddler Talk to Address Low-Income Word Gap

By age four, toddlers in low-income families hear 30 million fewer words than those in high-income families. As a result, these children tend to have smaller vocabularies and fall behind in reading. Professor James Morgan contributes to a PBS report about Providence Talks, a program that gets low-income parents talking more to their toddlers.

Watch the video online.

Virtual Crowds Produce Real Behavior Insights

The cognitive scientists in the Virtual Environment Navigation lab at Brown University are not only advancing a frontier of behavioral research but also of technology.

Led by Professor William Warren, the group developed a wireless virtual reality system to study a phenomenon that scientists don’t yet understand: how pedestrians interact with each other and how those individual behaviors, in turn, generate patterns of crowd movement. It’s an everyday experience for all kinds of animals including ants, birds, fish and people.

Read more and view video footage of the VENlab's innovative virtual reality environment and swarm research.

Free Will Seems a Matter of Mind, Not Soul

A new study tested whether people believe free will arises from a metaphysical basis or mental capacity. Even though most respondents said they believed humans to have souls, they judged free will and assigned blame for transgressions based on pragmatic considerations — such as whether the actor in question had the capacity to make an intentional and independent choice.

Read more about this study at the Brown News site.

Can Robots Learn Right From Wrong?

Can a machine have morals?

The more robots are able to do, the more likely they are to face decisions that demand a moral perspective. A new grant from the Office of Naval Research supports work at Tufts University, Brown University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute aimed at giving robots "moral competence." At Brown, Prof. Brtram Malle is developing a model of moral competence in humans — no small task, but an essential first step.

Read more about this research at the Brown News site.

EEG Study: Brain Infers Structure, Rules of Tasks

A new study from Anne Collins, Postdoctoral Researcher in Prof. Michael Frank's Laboratory of Neural Computation and Cognition, documents the brain activity underlying our strong tendency to infer a structure of context and rules when learning new tasks (even when a structure isn’t valid). The findings, which revealed individual differences, shows how we try to apply task knowledge to similar situations and could inform future research on learning disabilities.

Read more about this study at the Brown News site.

TA Application For Fall 2014 Now Available

Undergraduate students are invited to apply to be a TA in CLPS for Fall 2014 on this online form.