Understanding Learning by Inference
Study Shows How Problems Are Mapped in the Brain
Both humans and other animals are good at learning by inference, using information we do have to figure out things we cannot observe directly. New research from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, shows how our brains achieve this by constructing cognitive maps.
“The work suggests a new framework for learning in structured environments that goes beyond incremental, experiential learning of associations,” said Erie Boorman, assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychology and Center for Mind and Brain and senior author on the paper.
In structured environments, individual elements are systematically related to each other as they often are in the real world. The study’s insights could be harnessed to improve educational strategies that promote the use of a cognitive map for accelerated learning through inferences, and potentially, approaches to hasten transfer of learning in machine learning in artificial intelligence, Boorman said.
Conventional thinking holds that incremental learning about rewards from direct experiences is reinforced by the release of dopamine in the brain. The new study also implicates dopamine but for inferential learning.
“Our work suggests a more general role for dopamine signals in updating beliefs through inference.” — Erie Boorman, assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychology and Center for Mind and Brain
Read the rest of this article at UC Davis News.