Inferring the truth from deception: What can people learn from helpful and unhelpful information providers?


Sampling assumptions — the assumptions people make about how an example of a category or concept has been chosen — help us learn from examples efficiently. One context where sampling assumptions are particularly important is in social contexts, where a learner needs to infer the knowledge and intentions of the information provider and vice-versa. The pedagogical sampling assumptions model describes a Bayesian account of how learners and providers should behave given different assumptions they have about the other (e.g., is the provider trying to deceive or help me? Does the learner trust me?). In this study, we tested how well this model could describe learning behaviour in the rectangle game, where a fictional information provider revealed clues about the structure of a rectangle that the learner (a participant) needed to guess. Participants received clues from either a helpful information provider, a provider who was randomly sampling clues, or one of two kinds of unhelpful providers (who could mislead but could not lie). We found that people learned efficiently and in line with model predictions when the provider was helpful and that this was the case even when no cover story was provided. However, although participants could identify that unhelpful providers were not being helpful, they struggled to learn the strategy those providers were using.

In M Goldwater and F Anggoro and B Hayes and D Ong (Eds.) Proceedings of the 45th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society: Manuscript under review