Björn Meder

Björn Meder
Health and Medical University Potsdam

Ph.D. (Dr.rer.nat)

About

77
Publications
19,382
Reads
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1,020
Citations
Introduction
I’m a behavioral scientist with a background in psychology. My research investigates the computational and behavioral principles that support human learning, search, and decision making. I am particularly interested in how humans actively search for information or rewards, how they make causal inferences based on limited and noisy data, and the cognitive foundations of judgment and decision making. I like computational models of cognition, which I develop and test by running behavioral studies.
Additional affiliations
October 2020 - present
Health and Medical University Potsdam
Position
  • Professor
April 2019 - September 2020
Universität Erfurt
Position
  • Professor
October 2017 - August 2018
Max Planck Institute for Human Development
Position
  • Researcher
Education
April 2003 - March 2006
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Field of study
  • Psychology
October 1997 - February 2003
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Field of study
  • Psychology

Publications

Publications (77)
Article
Full-text available
Our research examines the normative and descriptive adequacy of alternative computational models of diagnostic reasoning from single effects to single causes. Many theories of diagnostic reasoning are based on the normative assumption that inferences from an effect to its cause should reflect solely the empirically observed conditional probability...
Article
Full-text available
We investigated 4th-grade children's search strategies on sequential search tasks in which the goal is to identify an unknown target object by asking yes-no questions about its features. We used exhaustive search to identify the most efficient question strategies and evaluated the usefulness of children's questions accordingly. Results show that ch...
Article
Full-text available
Economic crises bring to the fore deep issues for the economic profession and their models. Given that cognitive science shares with economics many theoretical frameworks and research tools designed to understand decision-making behavior, should economists be the only ones re-examining their conceptual ideas and empirical methods? We argue that eco...
Article
Full-text available
can strongly conflict with the goal of obtaining information for improving payoffs. Two environments with such a conflict were identified through computer optimization. Three subsequent experiments investigated people's search behavior in these environments. Experiments 1 and 2 used a multiple-cue probabilistic category-learning task to convey envi...
Article
Full-text available
Many of our decisions refer to actions that have a causal impact on the external environment. Such actions may not only allow for the mere learning of expected values or utilities but also for acquiring knowledge about the causal structure of our world. We used a repeated decision-making paradigm to examine what kind of knowledge people acquire in...
Article
We investigate whether a spatial representation of a search task supports 4- to 7-year-old children's information-search strategies, relative to their performance in a question-asking game. Children played two computationally and structurally analogous search games: a spatial search task, the maze-exploration game, in which they had to discover the...
Chapter
Full-text available
Humans constantly search for and use information to solve a wide range of problems related to survival, social interactions, and learning. While it is clear that curiosity and the drive for knowledge occupies a central role in defining what being human means to ourselves, where does this desire to know the unknown come from? What is its purpose? An...
Preprint
Full-text available
Analogies to stochastic optimization are common in developmental psychology, describing a gradual reduction in randomness over the lifespan. Yet for lack of concrete empirical comparison, there is ambiguity in how to interpret this analogy. Using data from n=281 participants ages 5 to 55, we show that "cooling off'" does not only apply to the singl...
Preprint
In the last decade there has been a proliferation of research on misinformation. One important aspect that receives less attention is why exactly misinformation is a problem. To adequately address this question, we must determine its cause(s) and effect(s). This review therefore explores the way different disciplines (computer science, economics, h...
Preprint
Consider the task of selecting a medical test to determine whether a patient has a particular disease. Normatively, this requires taking into account (i) the prior probability of the disease, (ii) the likelihood---for each available test---of obtaining a positive result if the medical condition is present or absent, respectively, and (iii) the util...
Article
Full-text available
Dealing with uncertainty and different degrees of frequency and probability is critical in many everyday activities. However, relevant information does not always come in the form of numerical estimates or direct experiences, but is instead obtained through qualitative, rather vague verbal terms (e.g., “the virus often causes coughing” or “the trai...
Article
Full-text available
An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
Preprint
Full-text available
Searching for information in a goal-directed manner is central for learning, diagnosis, and prediction. Children continuously ask questions to learn new concepts, doctors do medical tests to diagnose their patients, and scientists perform experiments to test their theories. But what makes a good question? What principles govern human information ac...
Article
Full-text available
Are young children just random explorers who learn serendipitously? Or are even young children guided by uncertainty-directed sampling, seeking to explore in a systematic fashion? We study how children between the ages of 4 and 9 search in an explore-exploit task with spatially-correlated rewards, where exhaustive exploration is infeasible and not...
Preprint
Full-text available
A key question individuals face in any social learning environment is when to innovate alone and when to imitate others. Previous simulation results have found that the best performing groups exhibit an intermediate balance, yet it is still largely unknown how individuals collectively negotiate this balance. We use an immersive collective foraging...
Article
Behavioural change techniques are currently used by many global organisations and public institutions. The amassing evidence base is used to answer practical and scientific questions regarding what cognitive, affective, and environment factors lead to successful behavioural change in the laboratory and in the field. In this piece we show that there...
Article
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[This corrects the article DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008149.].
Preprint
Full-text available
To appear in Trends in Cognitive Science. Abstract: Behavioural change techniques are currently used by many global organisations and public institutions. The amassing evidence base is used to answer practical and scientific questions regarding what cognitive, affective, and environment factors lead to successful behavioural change in the lab and...
Preprint
Full-text available
Dealing with uncertainty and different degrees of frequency and probability is critical in many everyday activities. However, relevant information does not always come in the form of numerical estimates or direct experiences, but is instead obtained through qualitative, rather vague verbal terms (e.g., “the virus often causes coughing” or “the trai...
Preprint
Full-text available
We investigate whether a spatial representation of a search task supports 4- to 7-year-old children’s information-search strategies, relative to their performance in a question-asking game. In Experiment 1, children played two computationally and structurally analogous search games: a spatial search task, the maze-exploration game, in which they ha...
Preprint
Full-text available
Are young children just random explorers who learn serendipitously? Or are even young children guided by uncertainty-directed sampling, seeking to explore in a systematic fashion? We study how children between the ages of 4 and 9 search in an explore-exploit task with spatially-correlated rewards, where exhaustive exploration is infeasible and not...
Preprint
Full-text available
Learning and generalization in spatial domains is often thought to rely on a “cognitive map”, representing relationships between spatial locations. Recent research suggests that this same neural machinery is also recruited for reasoning about more abstract, conceptual forms of knowledge. Yet, to what extent do spatial and conceptual reasoning share...
Article
Full-text available
How do children and adults differ in their search for rewards? We considered three different hypotheses that attribute developmental differences to (a) children’s increased random sampling, (b) more directed exploration toward uncertain options, or (c) narrower generalization. Using a search task in which noisy rewards were spatially correlated on...
Article
How do children and adults search for information when stepwise-optimal strategies fail to identify the most efficient query? The value of questions is often measured in terms of stepwise information gain (expected reduction of entropy on the next time step) or other stepwise-optimal methods. However, such myopic models are not guaranteed to identi...
Preprint
How should tests (or queries, questions, or experiments) be selected? Does it matter if only a single test is allowed, or if a sequential test strategy can be planned in advance? This article contributes two sets of theoretical results bearing on these questions. First, for selecting a single test, several Optimal Experimental Design (OED) ideas ha...
Article
Full-text available
From foraging for food to learning complex games, many aspects of human behaviour can be framed as a search problem with a vast space of possible actions. Under finite search horizons, optimal solutions are generally unobtainable. Yet, how do humans navigate vast problem spaces, which require intelligent exploration of unobserved actions? Using var...
Article
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Autonomous vehicles (AVs) promise to make traffic safer, but their societal integration poses ethical challenges. What behavior of AVs is morally acceptable in critical traffic situations when consequences are only probabilistically known (a situation of risk) or even unknown (a situation of uncertainty)? How do people retrospectively evaluate the...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The idea of a "cognitive map" was originally developed to explain planning and generalization in spatial domains through a representation of inferred relationships between experiences. Recently, new research has suggested similar principles may also govern the representation of more abstract, conceptual knowledge in the brain. We test whether the s...
Conference Paper
How do people actively explore to learn about functional relationships , that is, how continuous inputs map onto continuous outputs? We introduce a novel paradigm to investigate information search in continuous, multi-feature function learning scenarios. Participants either actively selected or passively observed information to learn about an under...
Article
Full-text available
Searching for information is critical in many situations. In medicine, for instance, careful choice of a diagnostic test can help narrow down the range of plausible diseases that the patient might have. In a probabilistic framework, test selection is often modeled by assuming that people’s goal is to reduce uncertainty about possible states of the...
Preprint
Full-text available
How do children and adults differ in their search for rewards? We consider three different hypotheses that attribute developmental differences to either children's increased random sampling, more directed exploration towards uncertain options, or narrower generalization. Using a search task in which noisy rewards are spatially correlated on a grid,...
Preprint
Full-text available
How do people actively explore to learn about functional relationships, that is, how continuous inputs map onto continuous outputs? We introduce a novel paradigm to investigate information search in continuous, multi-feature function learning scenarios. Participants either actively selected or passively observed information to learn about an underl...
Article
Full-text available
Gute Fragen zu stellen, ist eine grundlegende Kompetenz für das Lösen alltäglicher Aufgaben. Der vorliegende Beitrag skizziert eine spielerische Möglichkeit, anhand von gut überlegten Fragen zu verschiedenen Merkmalen und Fabelwesen erste Kentnisse über Information, sowie einfache Strategien (Heuristiken) der Informationssuche Schüler/inne/n zu ver...
Article
In diagnostic causal reasoning, the goal is to infer the probability of causes from one or multiple observed effects. Typically, studies investigating such tasks provide subjects with precise quantitative information regarding the strength of the relations between causes and effects or sample data from which the relevant quantities can be learned....
Article
Full-text available
Humans excel in categorization. Yet from a computational standpoint, learning a novel probabilistic classification task involves severe computational challenges. The present paper investigates one way to address these challenges: assuming class-conditional independence of features. This feature independence assumption simplifies the inference probl...
Conference Paper
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We introduce the spatially correlated multi-armed bandit as a task coupling function learning with the exploration-exploitation trade-off. Participants interacted with bi-variate reward functions on a two-dimensional grid, with the goal of either gaining the largest average score or finding the largest payoff. By providing an opportunity to learn t...
Article
While the influence of presentation formats have been widely studied in Bayesian reasoning tasks, we present the first systematic investigation of how presentation formats influence information search decisions. Four experiments were conducted across different probabilistic environments, where subjects (N = 2,858) chose between 2 possible search qu...
Article
Full-text available
How are judgments in moral dilemmas affected by uncertainty, as opposed to certainty? We tested the predictions of a consequentialist and deontological account using a hindsight paradigm. The key result is a hindsight effect in moral judgment. Participants in foresight, for whom the occurrence of negative side effects was uncertain, judged actions...
Article
Nudging as a means of infuencing human behaviour has received increasing attention by policy makers, including those in the feld of public health. Nudges are generally understood as specifc aspects of a choice architecture that make certain behaviours more likely to occur without mandating them through binding rules, and without relying on economic...
Article
Nudging as a means of influencing human behaviour has received increasing attention by policy makers, including those in the field of public health. Nudges are generally understood as specific aspects of a choice architecture that make certain behaviours more likely to occur without mandating them through binding rules, and without relying on econo...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
How can heuristic strategies emerge from smaller building blocks? We propose Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) as a computational solution to this problem. As a first proof of concept, we demonstrate how a heuristic decision strategy such as Take The Best (TTB) can be learned from smaller, probabilistically updated building blocks. Based on a...
Article
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How can heuristic strategies emerge from smaller building blocks? We propose Approximate Bayesian Computation as a computational solution to this problem. As a first proof of concept, we demonstrate how a heuristic decision strategy such as Take The Best (TTB) can be learned from smaller, probabilistically updated building blocks. Based on a self-r...
Article
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A probabilistic causal chain A→B→C may intuitively appear to be transitive: If A probabilistically causes B, and B probabilistically causes C, A probabilistically causes C. However, probabilistic causal relations can only guaranteed to be transitive if the so-called Markov condition holds. In two experiments, we examined how people make probabilist...
Poster
Full-text available
In der Gegenwärtigen Gesellschaft stehen Kindern und Jugendliche mit Fernsehapperaten, Radios, Telefone und Computern eine Menge an Geräten zur Verfügung, die Informationen speichern und verarbeiten. Diese Informationen müssen, um von den Lernenden adäquat im (Unterrichts) Alltag eingesetzt werden zu können, nach bestimmten Kriterien gefiltert werd...
Article
Full-text available
Treatment benefits and harms are often communicated as relative risk reductions and increases, which are frequently misunderstood by doctors and patients. One suggestion for improving understanding of such risk information is to also communicate the baseline risk. We investigated 1) whether the presentation format of the baseline risk influences un...
Conference Paper
We investigate whether people rely on their causal intuitions to determine the predictive value or importance of cues. Our real-world data set consists of one criterion variable (child mortality) and nine cues (e.g., GDP per capita). We elicited people’s intuitive causal models about the domain. In a second task, we asked them to rank the cues acco...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
We investigate whether people rely on their causal intuitions to determine the predictive value or importance of cues. Our real-world data set consists of one criterion variable (child mortality) and nine cues (e.g., GDP per capita). We elicited people’s intuitive causal models about the domain. In a second task, we asked them to rank the cues acco...
Chapter
Full-text available
Is the mind an “intuitive statistician”? Or are humans biased and error-prone when it comes to probabilistic thinking? While researchers in the 1950s and 1960s suggested that people reason approximately in accordance with the laws of probability theory, research conducted in the heuristics-and-biases program during the 1970s and 1980s concluded the...
Article
Full-text available
What-if anything-can psychology and decision science contribute to risk management in financial institutions? The turmoils of recent economic crises undermine the assumptions of classical economic models and threaten to dethrone Homo oeconomicus, who aims to make decisions by weighing and integrating all available information. But rather than propo...
Article
Full-text available
The goal of the present set of studies is to explore the boundary conditions of category transfer in causal learning. Previous research has shown that people are capable of inducing categories based on causal learning input, and they often transfer these categories to new causal learning tasks. However, occasionally learners abandon the learned cat...