Diverse experience leads to improved adaptation: An experiment with a cognitive model of learning
In dynamic decision tasks, the situations we confront are never the same: the world is constantly changing. Generally, our ability to generalize learned skills depends on the similarity between the learned skills and the situations in which we will apply those skills. However, in dynamic tasks, the situations we are trained in will most likely be different from the situations in which we need to apply skills. For example, in the face of emergencies, one could be trained to handle hypothetical disaster scenarios, but remain unprepared for the emergency that is actually experienced. How can we best prepare for the unexpected? Cognitive Science research suggests that heterogeneity during training helps people’s adaptation to unexpected situations. However, evidence for a general diversity hypothesis is limited. In this research, we investigate this Diversity Hypothesis using a cognitive model of learning and decisions from experience based on Instance-Based Learning (IBL) Theory. We focus on the concept of decision complexity to investigate whether confronting decisions of diverse complexities results in improved adaptation to unexpected decision complexities, compared to situations of consistent decision complexity. We conduct a simulation experiment using an IBL model in a Gridworld task, and expose agents to learning various degrees of diversity; we then observe how these agents transfer their acquired knowledge to a novel decision complexity situation. Our results support the Diversity Hypothesis and the benefits of diversity on adaptation.