Benedetto De Martino (UCL)
Goals, Usefulness and Abstraction in Value-based Choice
Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, while on the run, purportedly burned two million dollars to keep his daughter warm. A stark reminder that, in life, circumstances and goals can quickly change, forcing us to reassess and modify our values on-the-fly. This deceptively simple ability requires a precise interplay of several cognitive processes which, despite the significant progress in artificial intelligence (AI), is still unmatched by machines. In this talk I outline the computational and biological principles that enable the brain to compute the usefulness of an option or action by creating abstractions that flexibly adapt to changing goals. I will discuss how the brain identifies the appropriate value representation to respond to different goals; how attention shapes abstractions. I will present different algorithmic architectures, comparing ideas from AI and cognitive neuroscience with psychological theories and, when possible, drawing parallels.