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Cost-sensitive Bayesian control policy in human active sensing


An important but poorly understood aspect of sensory processing is the role of active sensing, the use of self-motion such as eye or head movements to focus sensing resources on the most rewarding or informative aspects of the sensory environment. Here, we present behavioral data from a visual search experiment, as well as a Bayesian model of within-trial dynamics of sensory processing and eye movements. Within this Bayes-optimal inference and control framework, which we call C-DAC (Context-Dependent Active Controller), various types of behavioral costs, such as temporal delay, response error, and sensor repositioning cost, are explicitly minimized. This contrasts with previously proposed algorithms that optimize abstract statistical objectives such as anticipated information gain (Infomax) (Butko and Movellan, 2010) and expected posterior maximum (greedy MAP) (Najemnik and Geisler, 2005). We find that C-DAC captures human visual search dynamics better than previous models, in particular a certain form of "confirmation bias" apparent in the way human subjects utilize prior knowledge about the spatial distribution of the search target to improve search speed and accuracy. We also examine several computationally efficient approximations to C-DAC that may present biologically more plausible accounts of the neural computations underlying active sensing, as well as practical tools for solving active sensing problems in engineering applications. To summarize, this paper makes the following key contributions: human visual search behavioral data, a context-sensitive Bayesian active sensing model, a comparative study between different models of human active sensing, and a family of efficient approximations to the optimal model.

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