How People Use Social Information to Find out What to Want in the Paradigmatic Case of Inter-temporal Preferences.
ABSTRACT: The weight with which a specific outcome feature contributes to preference quantifies a person's 'taste' for that feature. However, far from being fixed personality characteristics, tastes are plastic. They tend to align, for example, with those of others even if such conformity is not rewarded. We hypothesised that people can be uncertain about their tastes. Personal tastes are therefore uncertain beliefs. People can thus learn about them by considering evidence, such as the preferences of relevant others, and then performing Bayesian updating. If a person's choice variability reflects uncertainty, as in random-preference models, then a signature of Bayesian updating is that the degree of taste change should correlate with that person's choice variability. Temporal discounting coefficients are an important example of taste-for patience. These coefficients quantify impulsivity, have good psychometric properties and can change upon observing others' choices. We examined discounting preferences in a novel, large community study of 14-24 year olds. We assessed discounting behaviour, including decision variability, before and after participants observed another person's choices. We found good evidence for taste uncertainty and for Bayesian taste updating. First, participants displayed decision variability which was better accounted for by a random-taste than by a response-noise model. Second, apparent taste shifts were well described by a Bayesian model taking into account taste uncertainty and the relevance of social information. Our findings have important neuroscientific, clinical and developmental significance.
Project description:Recently, evidence has emerged that humans approach learning using Bayesian updating rather than (model-free) reinforcement algorithms in a six-arm restless bandit problem. Here, we investigate what this implies for human appreciation of uncertainty. In our task, a Bayesian learner distinguishes three equally salient levels of uncertainty. First, the Bayesian perceives irreducible uncertainty or risk: even knowing the payoff probabilities of a given arm, the outcome remains uncertain. Second, there is (parameter) estimation uncertainty or ambiguity: payoff probabilities are unknown and need to be estimated. Third, the outcome probabilities of the arms change: the sudden jumps are referred to as unexpected uncertainty. We document how the three levels of uncertainty evolved during the course of our experiment and how it affected the learning rate. We then zoom in on estimation uncertainty, which has been suggested to be a driving force in exploration, in spite of evidence of widespread aversion to ambiguity. Our data corroborate the latter. We discuss neural evidence that foreshadowed the ability of humans to distinguish between the three levels of uncertainty. Finally, we investigate the boundaries of human capacity to implement Bayesian learning. We repeat the experiment with different instructions, reflecting varying levels of structural uncertainty. Under this fourth notion of uncertainty, choices were no better explained by Bayesian updating than by (model-free) reinforcement learning. Exit questionnaires revealed that participants remained unaware of the presence of unexpected uncertainty and failed to acquire the right model with which to implement Bayesian updating.
Project description:Coding of the complex tastes of ionic stimuli in humans was studied by combining taste confusion matrix (TCM) methodology and treatment with chlorhexidine gluconate. The TCM evaluates discrimination of multiple stimuli simultaneously. Chlorhexidine, a bis-biguanide antiseptic, reversibly inhibits salty taste and tastes of a subset of bitter stimuli, including quinine hydrochloride. Identifications of salty (NaCl, "salt"), bitter (quinine.HCl, "quinine"), sweet (sucrose, "sugar"), and sour (citric acid, "acid") prototypes, alone and as components of binary mixtures, were measured under 4 conditions. One was a water-rinse control and the others had the salt and quinine tastes progressively reduced by treatment with 1 mM chlorhexidine, 3 mM chlorhexidine, and ultimately to zero by elimination of NaCl and quinine.HCl. Treatment with chlorhexidine perturbed identification of salt more than quinine; both were thereafter more often confused with "water" and unidentified when mixed with sucrose or citric acid. All pairwise discriminations that depended on the tastes of NaCl and quinine.HCl deteriorated, and although H(2)O was mistakenly identified as quinine after chlorhexidine, this may have been a decisional bias. Other confusions reflected "unprompted mixture analysis" and an obscuring of salt taste by a less-inhibited stronger quinine or sugar or acid tastes in mixtures. Partial inhibition of the tastes of NaCl and quinine.HCl by chlorhexidine was considered in the context of multiple receptors for the 2 compounds. Discrimination among prototypic stimuli with varying strengths was consistent with a gustatory system that evaluates a small number of independent tastes.
Project description:Studies of adults report that perceived taste affects food choices and intake, which in turn may have an impact on health. However, corresponding evidence on adolescents is limited.? Our aim was to summarize current evidence of the impact of taste perception on food choice preferences or dietary intakes among adolescents (mean age 10-19.9 years). Systematic searches identified 13 papers, 12 cross-sectional and one cohort study published between 1 January 2000 to 20 February 2020 assessing the impact of taste (using phenotypic and/or genotypic markers) on food choices in adolescents without any disease conditions. Qualitative assessment in the current review indicated that individuals sensitive to bitter tastes often have a lower preference of bitter-tasting food and higher preference for sweet-tasting food. A meta-analysis of three studies on bitter-taste sensitivity revealed?no difference in preference for bitter-tasting vegetables between bitter tasters and non-tasters (standardized mean difference (SMD) = 0.04; 95% CI: -0.18, 0.26; p = 0.72). Overall, a limited number of studies were available for review. As a result, we report no clear relationship between taste perception and food choices or intake in adolescents. More studies are needed to evaluate the link between adolescents' taste perceptions and dietary intake.
Project description:In the conduction of trials, a common situation is related to potential difficulties in recruiting the planned sample size as provided by the study design. A Bayesian analysis of such trials might provide a framework to combine prior evidence with current evidence, and it is an accepted approach by regulatory agencies. However, especially for small trials, the Bayesian inference may be severely conditioned by the prior choices. The Renal Scarring Urinary Infection (RESCUE) trial, a pediatric trial that was a candidate for early termination due to underrecruitment, served as a motivating example to investigate the effects of the prior choices on small trial inference. The trial outcomes were simulated by assuming 50 scenarios combining different sample sizes and true absolute risk reduction (ARR). The simulated data were analyzed via the Bayesian approach using 0%, 50%, and 100% discounting factors on the beta power prior. An informative inference (0% discounting) on small samples could generate data-insensitive results. Instead, the 50% discounting factor ensured that the probability of confirming the trial outcome was higher than 80%, but only for an ARR higher than 0.17. A suitable option to maintain data relevant to the trial inference is to define a discounting factor based on the prior parameters. Nevertheless, a sensitivity analysis of the prior choices is highly recommended.
Project description:Despite enormous recent efforts in detecting the mechanism of the social relation formation in online social systems, the underlying rules between the common interests and social relations are still under dispute. Do online users befriend others who have similar tastes, or do their tastes become more similar after they become friends? In this paper, we investigate the correlation between online user trust formation and their common interests, measured by the overlap rate ? and taste similarity ? respectively. The trust relation creation time is set as the zero timestamp. The statistical results before and after the trust formation for an online network, namely Epinions, show that, the overlap rate ? increases greatly before the trust formation, while it would increase smoothly after the creation of the trust relation. Comparing with the empirical results, two null models are presented by shuffling the temporal behaviors of online users, which suggests that the accumulation of the common interests can result in the trust formation. Furthermore, we investigate the taste similarity ? of the common interests, which can reflect the users' preference on their common interests. The empirical results show that the taste similarity ? is rapidly increased around the day when users trust the others. That is, the similar tastes on the common interests among users lead to the trust formation. Finally, we report that the user degree can also influence the effect of the taste similarity ? on user trust formation. This work may shed some light for deeply understanding the evolution mechanism of the online social systems.
Project description:Taste preferences guide food choices and dietary behaviours, yet few studies have shown a relationship between sweet and savoury taste preference and differences in dietary intakes or energy consumed from different "taste clusters". We investigated differences in psycho-hedonic responses to sweet and savoury tastes and their association with energy intake, proportion of energy from macronutrients and energy intake from different "taste clusters". In addition, we evaluated correspondence between two methods to classify "sweet-liker" status and the overlap between sweet and savoury taste preferences. Psycho-hedonic responses to sweet and savoury tastes of female participants (n = 66) were captured via staircase paired preference and the "sweet-liker phenotype" classification method. Quantitative dietary energy and macronutrient intakes were measured using three-day food diary, and the relative contributions of specific taste clusters to energy intake were derived for each participant. All participants completed anthropometric assessments measuring body mass index (BMI) and adiposity. Results showed no association between sweet and savoury preferences with dietary energy or macronutrient intakes, though there was a trend towards higher sweet food consumption among "sweet-likers". A higher preference for savouriness was not associated with differences in daily energy intake, energy intake from protein, BMI or adiposity levels. There was little overlap in sweet and savoury preferences, suggesting a bi-modal split in taste preferences. "Sweet-likers" preferred a higher mean sucrose concentration than sweet "dislikers" (p < 0.001) indicating agreement between the two approaches. Future studies should consider comparing taste-liker differences using food choice tasks to address the current gap between taste preference measures and actual dietary behaviours.
Project description:Successful interaction with the environment requires flexible updating of our beliefs about the world. By estimating the likelihood of future events, it is possible to prepare appropriate actions in advance and execute fast, accurate motor responses. According to theoretical proposals, agents track the variability arising from changing environments by computing various forms of uncertainty. Several neuromodulators have been linked to uncertainty signalling, but comprehensive empirical characterisation of their relative contributions to perceptual belief updating, and to the selection of motor responses, is lacking. Here we assess the roles of noradrenaline, acetylcholine, and dopamine within a single, unified computational framework of uncertainty. Using pharmacological interventions in a sample of 128 healthy human volunteers and a hierarchical Bayesian learning model, we characterise the influences of noradrenergic, cholinergic, and dopaminergic receptor antagonism on individual computations of uncertainty during a probabilistic serial reaction time task. We propose that noradrenaline influences learning of uncertain events arising from unexpected changes in the environment. In contrast, acetylcholine balances attribution of uncertainty to chance fluctuations within an environmental context, defined by a stable set of probabilistic associations, or to gross environmental violations following a contextual switch. Dopamine supports the use of uncertainty representations to engender fast, adaptive responses.
Project description:Obsessive compulsive (OC) symptoms involve excessive information gathering (e.g., checking, reassurance-seeking), and uncertainty about possible, often catastrophic, future events. Here we propose that these phenomena are the result of excessive uncertainty regarding state transitions (transition uncertainty): a computational impairment in Bayesian inference leading to a reduced ability to use the past to predict the present and future, and to oversensitivity to feedback (i.e. prediction errors). Using a computational model of Bayesian learning under uncertainty in a reversal learning task, we investigate the relationship between OC symptoms and transition uncertainty. Individuals high and low in OC symptoms performed a task in which they had to detect shifts (i.e. transitions) in cue-outcome contingencies. Modeling subjects' choices was used to estimate each individual participant's transition uncertainty and associated responses to feedback. We examined both an optimal observer model and an approximate Bayesian model in which participants were assumed to attend (and learn about) only one of several cues on each trial. Results suggested the participants were more likely to distribute attention across cues, in accordance with the optimal observer model. As hypothesized, participants with higher OC symptoms exhibited increased transition uncertainty, as well as a pattern of behavior potentially indicative of a difficulty in relying on learned contingencies, with no evidence for perseverative behavior. Increased transition uncertainty compromised these individuals' ability to predict ensuing feedback, rendering them more surprised by expected outcomes. However, no evidence for excessive belief updating was found. These results highlight a potential computational basis for OC symptoms and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The fact the OC symptoms predicted a decreased reliance on the past rather than perseveration challenges preconceptions of OCD as a disorder of inflexibility. Our results have implications for the understanding of the neurocognitive processes leading to excessive uncertainty and distrust of past experiences in OCD.
Project description:Adaptive decision making depends on an agent's ability to use environmental signals to reduce uncertainty. However, because of multiple types of uncertainty, agents must take into account not only the extent to which signals violate prior expectations but also whether uncertainty can be reduced in the first place. Here we studied how human brains of both sexes respond to signals under conditions of reducible and irreducible uncertainty. We show behaviorally that subjects' value updating was sensitive to the reducibility of uncertainty, and could be quantitatively characterized by a Bayesian model where agents ignore expectancy violations that do not update beliefs or values. Using fMRI, we found that neural processes underlying belief and value updating were separable from responses to expectancy violation, and that reducibility of uncertainty in value modulated connections from belief-updating regions to value-updating regions. Together, these results provide insights into how agents use knowledge about uncertainty to make better decisions while ignoring mere expectancy violation.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT To make good decisions, a person must observe the environment carefully, and use these observations to reduce uncertainty about consequences of actions. Importantly, uncertainty should not be reduced purely based on how surprising the observations are, particularly because in some cases uncertainty is not reducible. Here we show that the human brain indeed reduces uncertainty adaptively by taking into account the nature of uncertainty and ignoring mere surprise. Behaviorally, we show that human subjects reduce uncertainty in a quasioptimal Bayesian manner. Using fMRI, we characterize brain regions that may be involved in uncertainty reduction, as well as the network they constitute, and dissociate them from brain regions that respond to mere surprise.
Project description:In the mammalian brain, the insula is the primary cortical substrate involved in the perception of taste. Recent imaging studies in rodents have identified a "gustotopic" organization in the insula, whereby distinct insula regions are selectively responsive to one of the five basic tastes. However, numerous studies in monkeys have reported that gustatory cortical neurons are broadly-tuned to multiple tastes, and tastes are not represented in discrete spatial locations. Neuroimaging studies in humans have thus far been unable to discern between these two models, though this may be because of the relatively low spatial resolution used in taste studies to date. In the present study, we examined the spatial representation of taste within the human brain using ultra-high resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at high magnetic field strength (7-tesla). During scanning, male and female participants tasted sweet, salty, sour, and tasteless liquids, delivered via a custom-built MRI-compatible tastant-delivery system. Our univariate analyses revealed that all tastes (vs tasteless) activated primary taste cortex within the bilateral dorsal mid-insula, but no brain region exhibited a consistent preference for any individual taste. However, our multivariate searchlight analyses were able to reliably decode the identity of distinct tastes within those mid-insula regions, as well as brain regions involved in affect and reward, such as the striatum, orbitofrontal cortex, and amygdala. These results suggest that taste quality is not represented topographically, but by a distributed population code, both within primary taste cortex as well as regions involved in processing the hedonic and aversive properties of taste.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The insula is the primary cortical substrate involved in taste perception, yet some question remains as to whether this region represents distinct tastes topographically or via a population code. Using high field (7-tesla), high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging in humans, we examined the representation of different tastes delivered during scanning. All tastes activated primary taste cortex within the bilateral mid-insula, but no brain region exhibited any consistent taste preference. However, multivariate analyses reliably decoded taste quality within the bilateral mid-insula as well as the striatum, orbitofrontal cortex, and bilateral amygdala. This suggests that taste quality is represented by a spatial population code within regions involved in sensory and appetitive properties of taste.