PhD Proposal by David Illingworth

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  • Date/Time:
    • Friday November 17, 2017 - Saturday November 18, 2017
      1:00 pm - 2:59 pm
  • Location: JS Coon bldg. 148
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Summary Sentence: Hypothesis-Guided Testing Behavior: The Role of Generation, Metacognition, and Search

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Name: David Illingworth

School of Psychology - Dissertation Proposal

Date: Friday, November 17, 2017

Time: 1:00 pm

Location: JS Coon bldg. 148



Rick Thomas, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)


Dissertation committee:

Jamie Gorman, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)

Christopher Hertzog, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)

Dobromir Rahnev, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)

Karen Feigh, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)


Title: Hypothesis-Guided Testing Behavior: The Role of Generation, Metacognition, and Search


Hypothesis testing is the act of acquiring information to challenge or promote a decision-maker’s beliefs (i.e., hypotheses) in diagnostic tasks.  To date, theorists have conceptualized this behavior as a consequence of implementing one of many possible heuristics for selecting tests, each tailored to optimize some task-relevant goal (e.g., reduce the likelihood of an erroneous diagnosis).  Heuristics can account for a number of observed testing phenomena (e.g., pseudo-diagnostic search), but have difficulty explaining more nuanced testing behavior such as decisions to terminate data acquisition.  Moreover, current theory has yet to address how updating a decision-maker’s beliefs influences test preference, as hypothesis testing is often studied independent of other events inherent to hypothesis evaluation (e.g., hypothesis generation). 


The theoretical perspective evaluated in this dissertation incorporates both environmental factors and cognitive mechanisms into the evaluation of information sources.  That is, test selection is conceptualized as a consequence of a decision maker’s experience and the limitations of their cognitive abilities, as well as contextual constraints such as the cost to access data and incentives for performing a task accurately.  I cast hypothesis testing as a special case of generalized cognitive search.  Thus, selection of a test occurs as a consequence of the perceived tradeoffs between the value of available information depositories and costs associated with exploiting those depositories.  The key facet of this theoretical perspective is the hypothesis-guided testing hypothesis, which posits that the state of one’s beliefs is critical to changes in testing behavior over time.


The proposed work advances hypothesis testing theory and promises to produce valuable data for evaluating novel computational modeling (HyGene-SeEC) as well as pre-existing theoretical accounts relevant to testing behavior.  The proposed empirics outline three lines of research with the potential to stand as foundations for continued empirical study in the field of hypothesis testing.  This includes investigating the role of belief generation in test selection and search termination, the role of metacognitive processes in decisions to terminate search, and the role of beliefs in valuating tests relative to costs associated with data acquisition.  This work is an important step in elucidating the mechanisms involved in hypothesis testing and bringing coherence to hypothesis evaluation by incorporating the role of generation processes in testing behavior.

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Phd proposal
  • Created By: Tatianna Richardson
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Nov 14, 2017 - 8:45am
  • Last Updated: Nov 14, 2017 - 8:45am