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Wednesday, 5 pm CET, i.e, 11 am EDT


Organized by David Hansel & Carl van Vreeswijk, CNRS,  France


About the Seminar

WWTNS is a weekly digital seminar on Zoom targeting the theoretical neuroscience community. Its aim is to be a platform to exchange ideas among theoreticians. Speakers have the occasion to talk about theoretical aspects of their work which cannot be discussed in a setting where the majority of the audience consists of experimentalists. The seminars  are 45 min long followed by a discussion and are held on Wednesdays at 5 pm in Western Europe, i.e, 11 am EST. The talks are recorded with authorization of the speaker and are available to everybody on our YouTube channel.


To participate in the seminar you need to fill out a registration form after which you will

receive an email telling you how to connect.

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Tahra Eissa

University of Colorado Boulder

December, 1, 2021

Suboptimal human inference inverts the bias-variance trade-off for decisions with asymmetric evidence

Solutions to challenging inference problems are often subject to a fundamental trade-off between bias (being systematically wrong) that is minimized with complex inference strategies and variance (being oversensitive to uncertain observations) that is minimized with simple inference strategies. However, this trade-off is based on the assumption that the strategies being considered are optimal for their given complexity and thus has unclear relevance to the frequently suboptimal inference strategies used by humans. We examined inference problems involving rare, asymmetrically available evidence, which a large population of human subjects solved using a diverse set of strategies that were suboptimal relative to the Bayesian ideal observer. These suboptimal strategies reflected an inversion of the classic bias-variance trade-off: subjects who used more complex, but imperfect, Bayesian-like strategies tended to have lower variance but high bias because of incorrect tuning to latent task features, whereas subjects who used simpler heuristic strategies tended to have higher variance because they operated more directly on the observed samples but displayed weaker, near-normative bias. Our results yield new insights into the principles that govern individual differences in behavior that depends on rare-event inference, and, more generally, about the information-processing trade-offs that are sensitive to not just the complexity, but also the optimality of the inference process.



David Hansel

I am a theoretical neuroscientist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, France and visiting professor at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. I am mainly interested in the recurrent dynamics in the cortex and 

basal ganglia.

Carl van Vreeswijk

I am a theoretical neuroscientist working at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, France. My main interest is the dynamics of recurrent networks of neurons in the sensory system

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