Modeling inference of mental states: As simple as possible, as complex as necessary

Interaction Studies 15 (3):455-477 (2014)
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Abstract

Behavior oftentimes allows for many possible interpretations in terms of mental states, such as goals, beliefs, desires, and intentions. Reasoning about the relation between behavior and mental states is therefore considered to be an effortful process. We argue that people use simple strategies to deal with high cognitive demands of mental state inference. To test this hypothesis, we developed a computational cognitive model, which was able to simulate previous empirical findings: In two-player games, people apply simple strategies at first. They only start revising their strategies when these do not pay off. The model could simulate these findings by recursively attributing its own problem solving skills to the other player, thus increasing the complexity of its own inferences. The model was validated by means of a comparison with findings from a developmental study in which the children demonstrated similar strategic developments

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