Modeling cognition with probabilistic programs : representations and algorithms
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
Noah D. Goodman and Joshua B. Tenenbaum.
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis develops probabilistic programming as a productive metaphor for understanding cognition, both with respect to mental representations and the manipulation of such representations. In the first half of the thesis, I demonstrate the representational power of probabilistic programs in the domains of concept learning and social reasoning. I provide examples of richly structured concepts, defined in terms of systems of relations, subparts, and recursive embeddings, that are naturally expressed as programs and show initial experimental evidence that they match human generalization patterns. I then proceed to models of reasoning about reasoning, a domain where the expressive power of probabilistic programs is necessary to formalize our intuitive domain understanding due to the fact that, unlike previous formalisms, probabilistic programs allow conditioning to be represented in a model, not just applied to a model. I illustrate this insight with programs that model nested reasoning in game theory, artificial intelligence, and linguistics. In the second half, I develop three inference algorithms with the dual intent of showing how to efficiently compute the marginal distributions defined by probabilistic programs, and providing building blocks for process-level accounts of human cognition. First, I describe a Dynamic Programming algorithm for computing the marginal distribution of discrete probabilistic programs by compiling to systems of equations and show that it can make inference in models of "reasoning about reasoning" tractable by merging and reusing subcomputations. Second, I introduce the setting of amortized inference and show how learning inverse models lets us leverage samples generated by other inference algorithms to compile probabilistic models into fast recognition functions. Third, I develop a generic approach to coarse-to-fine inference in probabilistic programs and provide evidence that it can speed up inference in models with large state spaces that have appropriate hierarchical structure. Finally, I substantiate the claim that probabilistic programming is a productive metaphor by outlining new research questions that have been opened up by this line of investigation.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, 2015.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student-submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 167-176).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Brain and Cognitive Sciences.