A Rational Distributed Process-level Account of Independence Judgment

AbstractIt is inconceivable how chaotic the world would look to humans, faced with innumerable decisions a day to be made under uncertainty, had they been lacking the capacity to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant—a capacity which computationally amounts to handling probabilistic independence relations. The highly parallel and distributed computational machinery of the brain suggests that a satisfying process-level account of human independence judgment should also mimic these features. In this work, we present the first rational, distributed, message-passing, process-level account of independence judgment, called D*. Interestingly, D* shows a curious, but normatively justified tendency for quick detection of dependencies, whenever they hold. Furthermore, D* outperforms all the previously proposed algorithms in the AI literature in terms of worst-case running time, and a salient aspect of it is supported by recent work in neuroscience investigating possible implementations of Bayes nets at the neural level. D* exemplifies how the pursuit of cognitive plausibility can lead to the discovery of state-of-the-art algorithms with appealing properties, and its simplicity makes D* potentially a good candidate as a teaching tool.

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