Cognitive Dissertation

Cognitive Dissertation-18
In each of these studies I demonstrate that, as with default choices, an emphasis on either autonomy or accountability can communicate what is normative and expected, change the meaning of the behavior in consideration, and guide the choices that people ultimately make, as well as how those choices are construed by both themselves and others.Both a framing of autonomy and of accountability allow the exercise of choice, yet communicate very different ideas about what behavior is valued.These changes are known to be in part the result of small tweaks to the representation of visual stimuli in sensory cortex, but are also the result of context-dependent selection occurring after sensory processing has gone to completion.

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Choosing to make a saccade requires sampling the periphery and identifying potentially important parts of the visual scene.

This covert attention, without eye movement, is essential to selecting information in an efficient manner.

Here, I argue that foregrounding autonomy has the effect of communicating that a social choice or commitment is optional, and the choice available to a person is therefore whether or not to opt-in.

In contrast, when accountability is foregrounded, commitment to others is perceived as normative and the construal of the choice available to people is whether or not to opt-out.

They provide stable, shared expectations about how the words we say correspond to the beliefs and intentions in our heads.

However, to handle an ever-changing environment where we constantly face new things to talk about and new partners to talk with, linguistic knowledge must be flexible: we give old words new meaning on the fly.

Community-level expectations provide a stable prior, and dynamics within an interaction are driven by partner-specific learning.

Chapter 3 exploits recent connections between this hierarchical Bayesian framework and continual learning in deep neural networks to propose and evaluate a computationally efficient algorithm implementing this same model at scale in an adaptive neural image-captioning agent.

The opt-in framing, which emphasizes autonomy and conveys that social commitments are optional, has the unintended consequences of discouraging participation and engagement in meaningful social and contexts, reducing a felt sense of accountability, and ultimately undermining wellbeing and motivation.

Taken together, this work suggests that foregrounding accountability and interdependence, yet leaving the important safety valve of choice, may be one way to foster greater collective motivation and wellbeing.


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