Models that learn how humans learn: The case of decision-making and its disorders

by Amir Dezfouli, Kristi Griffiths, Fabio Ramos, Peter Dayan, Bernard W. Balleine

Popular computational models of decision-making make specific assumptions about learning processes that may cause them to underfit observed behaviours. Here we suggest an alternative method using recurrent neural networks (RNNs) to generate a flexible family of models that have sufficient capacity to represent the complex learning and decision- making strategies used by humans. In this approach, an RNN is trained to predict the next action that a subject will take in a decision-making task and, in this way, learns to imitate the processes underlying subjects’ choices and their learning abilities. We demonstrate the benefits of this approach using a new dataset drawn from patients with either unipolar (n = 34) or bipolar (n = 33) depression and matched healthy controls (n = 34) making decisions on a two-armed bandit task. The results indicate that this new approach is better than baseline reinforcement-learning methods in terms of overall performance and its capacity to predict subjects’ choices. We show that the model can be interpreted using off-policy simulations and thereby provides a novel clustering of subjects’ learning processes—something that often eludes traditional approaches to modelling and behavioural analysis.

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