January 2018, Vol. 30, No. 1, Pages 34-83
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Balancing New against Old Information: The Role of Puzzlement Surprise in Learning
Article PDF (1.44 MB)
Surprise describes a range of phenomena from unexpected events to behavioral responses. We propose a novel measure of surprise and use it for surprise-driven learning. Our surprise measure takes into account data likelihood as well as the degree of commitment to a belief via the entropy of the belief distribution. We find that surprise-minimizing learning dynamically adjusts the balance between new and old information without the need of knowledge about the temporal statistics of the environment. We apply our framework to a dynamic decision-making task and a maze exploration task. Our surprise-minimizing framework is suitable for learning in complex environments, even if the environment undergoes gradual or sudden changes, and it could eventually provide a framework to study the behavior of humans and animals as they encounter surprising events.