Using deep learning to predict human decisions and using cognitive models to explain deep learning models

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Deep neural networks (DNNs) models have the potential to provide new insights in the study of cognitive processes, such as human decision making, due to their high capacity and data-driven design. While these models may be able to go beyond theory-driven models in predicting human behaviour, their opaque nature limits their ability to explain how an operation is carried out, undermining their usefulness as a scientific tool. Here we suggest the use of a DNN model as an exploratory tool to identify predictable and consistent human behaviour, and using explicit, theory-driven models, to characterise the high-capacity model. To demonstrate our approach, we trained an exploratory DNN model to predict human decisions in a four-armed bandit task. We found that this model was more accurate than two explicit models, a reward-oriented model geared towards choosing the most rewarding option, and a reward-oblivious model that was trained to predict human decisions without information about rewards. Using experimental simulations, we were able to characterise the exploratory model using the explicit models. We found that the exploratory model converged with the reward-oriented model’s predictions when one option was clearly better than the others, but that it predicted pattern-based explorations akin to the reward-oblivious model’s predictions. These results suggest that predictable decision patterns that are not solely reward-oriented may contribute to human decisions. Importantly, we demonstrate how theory-driven cognitive models can be used to characterise the operation of DNNs, making DNNs a useful explanatory tool in scientific investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4736
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

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© 2022, The Author(s).

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