How do we learn what sources of information are relevant for our goals? I developed a computational model of human gaze behavior that proposes selective attention during learning is guided by a form of inference: we randomly sample hypotheses about which sources of information could be relevant, direct attention in accordance to the current hypothesis, and use observations stored in memory to update hypotheses.
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How do affective states interact with how we learn to select information? Our mood is influenced by how our expectations about the environment diverge from reality: mood improves when outcomes are better than expected, and declines when outcomes are worse than expected. In ongoing work, I am studying whether and how mood can in turn bias our attention to different sources of information.
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How do our strategies for learning to focus on relevant sources of information change with age? I modeled the extent to which people tend to focus on several features in parallel when learning to choose between options with multiple features. I found that older adults learned from fewer features at a time. This difference in strategy explained why, in the particular learning environment we studied, older adults were slower to learn which features are more predictive of reward.
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