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« January 18, 2006 | Main | January 20, 2006 »

19 January 2006

Born to be Bayesian

Sebastian Bauhoff

The Economist recently featured an intestesting article on forthcoming research by Griffiths and Tenenbaum on how the brain works ("Bayes Rules", January 7, 2006).

Their research reportedly analyses how the brain makes judgements by using prior distributions. Griffiths and Tenenbaum gave individuals a piece of information and asked them to draw general conclusions. Apparently the answers to most issues correspond well to a Bayesian approach to reasoning. People generally make accurate predictions, and pick the right probability distribution. And it seems that if you don't know the distribution, you can just make experiments and find out.

The interesting question of course is, where does the brain get this information from? Trial and error experience? Learning from your parents or others?

At any rate the results suggest what many readers of this blog already know: real humans are Bayesians. Tell a frequentist next time you meet one.

PS: Andrew Gelman also posted about this article on his blog. See here.

Posted by Sebastian Bauhoff at 4:12 AM