found drama

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not a surprise (follow up)

by Rob Friesel

A couple days ago I commented on a recent article out of USC (that I saw mentioned on BoingBoing) that proclaimed: “While surprise is not a new concept it had lacked a formal definition, broad enough to capture the intuitive meaning of the term, yet quantitative and computable.” The part that I’d taken issue with was the lacked a formal definition part, citing Rescorla & Wagner (1972) and Pearce & Hall (1980) (with a substantial nod to A for confirming the references) had pretty well accounted for surprise in their research. So I fired off just such a question to the researchers from USC.

Happy to say that I got a resposne today! Laurent Itti replied with a well-reasoned argument for the differences between their theory and that of Rescorla & Wagner (no mention of Pearce & Hall though). Here’s a snip from the reply:

[Rescorla & Wagner] tell you how a given amount of surprise translates into some amount of learning; we tell you what amount of surprise a given stimulus may elicit in a given observer.

I’ll take that. Sciences and the semantics of specificity do tend to go hand-in-hand, don’t they?

currently playing: Atomica “Larsen”

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night; weekend homebrewer. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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