Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Certainty Is Primarily Determined by Past Performance During Concept Learning

Louis Martí, Francis Mollica, Steven Piantadosi and Celeste Kidd
Open Mind: Discoveries in Cognitive Science
Posted Online August 16, 2018


Prior research has yielded mixed findings on whether learners’ certainty reflects veridical probabilities from observed evidence. We compared predictions from an idealized model of learning to humans’ subjective reports of certainty during a Boolean concept-learning task in order to examine subjective certainty over the course of abstract, logical concept learning. Our analysis evaluated theoretically motivated potential predictors of certainty to determine how well each predicted participants’ subjective reports of certainty. Regression analyses that controlled for individual differences demonstrated that despite learning curves tracking the ideal learning models, reported certainty was best explained by performance rather than measures derived from a learning model. In particular, participants’ confidence was driven primarily by how well they observed themselves doing, not by idealized statistical inferences made from the data they observed.

Download the pdf here.

Key Points: In order to learn and understand, you need to use all the data you have accumulated, not just the feedback on your most recent performance.  In this way, feedback, rather than hard evidence, increases a person's sense of certainty when learning new things, or how to tell right from wrong.

Fascinating research, I hope I am interpreting it correctly.  I am not all that certain.