Deep neural networks (DNN) models have the potential to provide new insights in the study of human decision making, due to their high capacity and data-driven design. While these models may be able to go beyond theory-driven models in predicting human behaviour, their opaque nature limits their ability to explain how an operation is carried out. This explainability problem remains unresolved. Here we demonstrate the use of a DNN model as an exploratory tool to identify predictable and consistent human behaviour in value-based decision making beyond the scope of theory-driven models. We then propose using theory-driven models to characterise the operation of the DNN model. We trained a DNN model to predict human decisions in a four-armed bandit task. We found that this model was more accurate than a reinforcement-learning reward-oriented model geared towards choosing the most rewarding option. This disparity in accuracy was more pronounced during times when the expected reward from all options was similar, i.e., no unambiguous good option. To investigate this disparity, we introduced a reward-oblivious model, which was trained to predict human decisions without information about the rewards obtained from each option. This model captured decision-sequence patterns made by participants (e.g., a-b-c-d). In a series of experimental offline simulations of all models we found that the general model was in line with a reward-oriented model’s predictions when one option was clearly better than the others. However, when options’ expected rewards were similar to each other, it was in-line with the reward-oblivious model’s pattern completion predictions. These results indicate the contribution of predictable but task-irrelevant decision patterns to human decisions, especially when task-relevant choices are not immediately apparent. Importantly, we demonstrate how theory-driven cognitive models can be used to characterise the operation of DNNs, making them a useful explanatory tool in scientific investigation.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience