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CCC Colloquium: Rational arbitration between statistics and rules in human sequence processing.

Florent Meyniel
Tuesday, January 17, 2023, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Detecting and learning temporal regularities is essential to accurately predict the future. A long-standing debate in cognitive science concerns the existence in humans of a dissociation between two systems, one for handling statistical regularities governing the probabilities of individual items and their transitions, and another for handling deterministic rules. Here, to address this issue, we used finger tracking to continuously monitor the online build-up of evidence, confidence, false alarms and changes-of-mind during sequence processing. All these aspects of behaviour conformed tightly to a hierarchical Bayesian inference model with distinct hypothesis spaces for statistics and rules, yet linked by a single probabilistic currency. Alternative models based either on a single statistical mechanism or on two non-commensurable systems were rejected. Our results indicate that a hierarchical Bayesian inference mechanism, capable of operating over distinct hypothesis spaces for statistics and rules, underlies the human capability for sequence processing.