A Simple and Flexible Bayesian Method for Inferring Step Changes in Cognition

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Description: Human behavioral data often shows patterns of sudden change overtime. Sometimes the causes of these step changes are internal, such as learning curves that change abruptly when a learner implements a new rule. Sometimes the cause is external, such as when people's opinions about a topic change in response to a new relevant event. Detecting change points in sequences of binary data is basic statistical problem, with many existing solutions, but they seem rarely to be used in psychological modeling. We develop a simple and flexible Bayesian approach to modeling step changes in cognition, implemented as a graphical model in JAGS. The model is able to infer how many change points are justified by the data, as well as the location of the change points. The basic model is also easily extended to include latent-mixture and hierarchical structures, allowing it to be tailored to specific cognitive modeling problems. We demonstrate the adequacy of the basic model by applying it to the classic Lindisfarne Scribes problem, and the flexibility of the modeling approach through two new applications. The first involves a latent-mixture model to determine if individuals learn categories incrementally or in discrete stages.The second involves a hierarchical model of crowd-sourced predictions about the winner of the U.S. National Football League's Most Valuable Player for the 2016{2017 season.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International

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