Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sabbatical Report: Project End

The goal of my past sabbatical was to conduct a project that studied how simple artificial neural networks learned about uncertain environments. This project was completed this past August 10 when I submitted a 240 page monograph for review at Comparative Cognition and Behavior Reviews. The sabbatical not only involved the actual writing this monograph, but also the collection of new results to be reported. This involved a tremendous amount of new research activity. I developed a number of new mathematical proofs about the relationship between simple artificial neural networks and Bayesian probability. I conducted hundreds of network simulations in order to collect data on how such networks behave in uncertain environments when interactions between cues serve as signals of reward probabilities. I also collected data from 200 Introductory Psychology students to measure their behavior in similar environments, and to compare human probability learning to that of my networks. There are striking similarities between network and human performance, and one of the main goals of my monograph is to use this relationship to support the claim that human probability learning can potentially be modeled by very simple artificial neural networks.

While this study of probabilistic artificial neural networks was the primary activity of my sabbatical, I have also been able to develop a new research project (in collaboration with Cor Baerveldt and his students in the Department of Psychology) on the history of the Center for Advanced Study of Theoretical Psychology at the University of Alberta. In particular, during we have explored archival materials and used our findings to explore the development of the Center’s flagship course ‘Seminar in Theoretical Psychology’ as well as the relationship of Center activities to Cold War social science. Both of these projects have led to manuscripts, one that is currently under review at History of the Human Sciences, the other soon to appear in History of Psychology. I also presented a poster at the 50th annual meeting of Cheiron on the contents of the books in the collection of the Center which are now included in the D.E. Smith Reading Room at the University of Alberta.