A computational-level explanation of the speed of goal inference
until further notice
Number of pages
SourceJournal of Mathematical Psychology, 57, 3-4, (2013), pp. 117-133
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC AI
SW OZ DCC CO
Journal of Mathematical Psychology
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control; Cognitive artificial intelligence; DI-BCB_DCC_Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control
The ability to understand the goals that drive another person’s actions is an important social and cognitive skill. This is no trivial task, because any given action may in principle be explained by different possible goals (e.g., one may wave ones arm to hail a cab or to swat a mosquito). To select which goal best explains an observed action is a form of abduction. To explain how people perform such abductive inferences, Baker, Tenenbaum, and Saxe (2007) proposed a computational-level theory that formalizes goal inference as Bayesian inverse planning (BIP). It is known that general Bayesian inference–be it exact or approximate–is computationally intractable (NP-hard). As the time required for computationally intractable computations grows excessively fast when scaled from toy domains to the real world, it seems that such models cannot explain how humans can perform Bayesian inferences quickly in real world situations. In this paper we investigate how the BIP model can nevertheless explain how people are able to make goal inferences quickly. The approach that we propose builds on taking situational constraints explicitly into account in the computational-level model. We present a methodology for identifying situational constraints that render the model tractable. We discuss the implications of our findings and reflect on how the methodology can be applied to alternative models of goal inference and Bayesian models in general.
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