Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Spatial Generalization in Operant Learning: Lessons from Professional Basketball

According to the law of effect, formulated a century ago by Edward Thorndike, actions which are rewarded in a particular situation are more likely to be executed when that same situation recurs. However, in natural settings the same situation never recurs and therefore, generalization from one state of the world to other states is an essential part of the process of learning. In this paper we utilize basketball statistics to study the computational principles underlying generalization in operant learning of professional basketball players. We show that players are more likely to attempt a field goal from the vicinity of a previously made shot than they are from the vicinity of a missed shot, as expected from the law of effect. However, the outcome of a shot can also affect the likelihood of attempting another shot at a different location. Using hierarchical clustering we characterize the spatial pattern of generalization and show that generalization is primarily determined by the type of shot, 3 pt vs. 2 pt. more

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