EECS500 Fall 2012 Department Seminar

Robert Wilson
Why the grass is greener on the other side: An ambiguity bonus and adaptive noise in human exploratory decision making
White Bldg., Room 411
11:30am - 12:30pm
November 6, 2012

When you go to your favorite restaurant do you always get the same thing or do you try something new? Going with an old favorite guarantees a happy meal but you might miss out on something better unless you’re willing to explore. This simple conundrum, deciding between going with what you know or trying something different, is at the heart of the exploration-exploitation dilemma and, whether it’s a cow searching for pasture or a human looking for love, this problem is ubiquitous and important to solve.

In this talk I will present experimental evidence showing that human strategies of exploration have two distinct features: an ambiguity bonus – promoting exploration through ambiguity seeking behavior – and adaptive decision noise – promoting exploration through randomness. These results are consistent with computational theories of exploration and provide evidence for the Adaptive Gain hypothesis of exploratory decision making.


Dr Wilson received bachelor's and master's degrees in Natural Sciences at Jesus College Cambridge and a Ph.D. in Neuroengineering at the University of Pennsylvania.  His research
mixes computational modeling, psychophysics, pupillometric and neuroimaging experiments to probe the neuroscience of decision making under uncertainty.