Rice University

Events at Rice


Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dean of Engineering
Faculty Host: Rich Baraniuk

Speaker: Michael Mozer
Professor, Department of Computer Science
University of Colorado

ECE Seminar Series: "Optimizing incentive design for intertemporal choice" (698/699)

Thursday, February 9, 2017
4:00 PM  to 5:00 PM

102  Keck Hall
Rice University
6100 Main St
Houston, Texas, USA

Should you go hiking today or work on that manuscript? Should you have a slice of cake or stick to your diet? Should you upgrade your flat-screen TV or make a supplementary mortgage payment? Individuals are constantly faced with temptations that lead them astray from long-term goals. We're interested in developing personalized interventions that assist individuals both in making good initial decisions and in maintaining those decisions over time. In the realm of financial decision making, one approach that has been particularly successful is the prize-linked savings account: individuals are incentivized to make deposits by tying deposits to a periodic lottery that awards bonuses to the savers. Although these lotteries have been very effective in motivating savers across the globe, they are a one-size-fits-all solution. We ask whether customized rewards can be more effective. Our research begins with a formal analysis of delayed-gratification tasks in which we characterize individuals as rational agents subject to temporal discounting and moment-to-monent fluctuations in willpower. We ask what schedule of bonuses would maximize the probability that a particular agent will achieve long-term objectives. We characterize the relationship between optimal bonuses and an individual's characteristics. We then describe a laboratory game designed to simulate a common situation involving delayed gratification: choosing a line to wait in at the supermarket. We present initial results in which the model is used to determine a personalized intervention that improves player performance. This is joint work with Shruthi Sukumar and Camden Elliott-Williams (Computer Science Dept., CU Boulder), Shabnam Hakimi (Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University), and Adrian F. Ward (McCombs School of Business, University of Texas) This work is a joint collaboration with Robert Lindsey and Karl Ridgeway at the University of Colorado.

Biography of Michael Mozer:
Michael Mozer received a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science at the University of California at San Diego in 1987. Following a postdoctoral fellowship with Geoffrey Hinton at the University of Toronto, he joined the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is presently an Professor in the Department of Computer Science and the Institute of Cognitive Science. He is secretary of the Neural Information Processing Systems Foundation and has served as chair of the Cognitive Science Society. He is interested both in developing machine learning algorithms that leverage insights from human cognition, and in developing software tools to optimize human performance using machine learning methods.

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