Amortized Hypothesis Generation


Bayesian models of cognition posit that people compute probability distributions over hypotheses, possibly by constructing a sample-based approximation. Since people encounter many closely related distributions, a computationally efficient strategy is to selectively reuse computations - either the samples themselves or some summary statistic. We refer to these reuse strategies as amortized inference. In two experiments, we present evidence consistent with amortization. When sequentially answering two related queries about natural scenes, we show that answers to the second query vary systematically depending on the structure of the first query. Using a cognitive load manipulation, we find evidence that people cache summary statistics rather than raw sample sets. These results enrich our notions of how the brain approximates probabilistic inference.

Back to Table of Contents