TSVP Talk "How Cognitive Constraints Shape Our Decisions and Actions" by Lucy Lai


Thursday, January 25, 2024 - 15:00


L4E48 and zoom


Title: How Cognitive Constraints Shape Our Decisions and Actions

Abstract: Decision making taxes cognitive resources. For example, when shopping for groceries on a budget, we must evaluate which brand of milk offers the best value for the price. But time constraints or mental fatigue can often steer us towards familiar choices, such as sticking to the same brand. As illustrated here, our behavior is undeniably shaped by constraints, or limits, on our cognitive resources. To better understand how this resource limitation affects behavior, I use tools from reinforcement learning and information theory to build testable models of decision making and action selection. In this talk, I will show how people are biased in their decision making as a result of cognitive constraints, and how this bias increases with contextual factors such as cognitive load and time pressure. In the second half of the talk, I will highlight a potential neural signature of cost-sensitive action selection in the basal ganglia. Lesions to distinct areas of  striatum reveal a striking division of labor between controllers that balance the automatic execution of well-trained behaviors with the cognitive cost of remaining flexibly responsive to relevant sensory information. Through computational modeling, human behavior, and lesion studies, I hope to paint a richer understanding of how our decisions and actions are shaped by the brain’s drive to reduce cognitive costs.

Profile: Lucy Lai is a final-year neuroscience Ph.D. student at Harvard, advised by Sam Gershman. Her research applies information theory and reinforcement learning towards understanding how humans learn and make decisions under cognitive resource constraints. In addition to research, Lucy is also passionate about education and mentoring: she has developed and taught many courses and served as a Resident Tutor at Harvard's Quincy House, where she lived with and advised undergraduate students. Personal Website

Language: English, no interpretation.

Target audience: General audience / everyone at OIST and beyond.
Freely accessible to all OIST members and guests without registration.

This talk will also be broadcast online via Zoom:

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 935 6099 8297
Passcode: 376796

※ Please note that this event may be recorded and the videos uploaded. In addition, photos may be taken during the event. These are intended for publication online (the OIST website, social media, etc.)※


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