Dissertation Information for Colleen Michele Seifert
MPACT Status: Incomplete - Not_Inspected
Title: MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS OF SOCIAL KNOWLEDGE: A COMPUTATIONAL APPROACH TO REASONING ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS
Abstract: This thesis presents a model of reasoning about relationships containing three components: a vocabulary to describe the causal information evident in the social domain, a process model that suggests how memory retrieval and creative reasoning may be incorporated to generate explanations for problems, and heuristics that capture the pragmatic knowledge of what constitutes appropriate social advice. The representation theory was organized around two broad themes: the vocabulary of goals, plans and their interactions, describing the strategies people use both as individual and mutual planners; and the general knowledge of dynamic and economic systems, which provides, through an abstract relationship to social systems, the capability of characterize behavior in static terms or to describe behavior over time. The process model proposed considers advice generation as a form of memory-based planning: causal descriptions of a problem can be used as indices to retrieve explanations and advice from memory. This memory model is augmented with a reasoning component--simulation of a mental model of relationships--that can be used to generate novel explanations through causal reasoning. Finally, the model includes a component to provide the pragmatic knowledge of advice that people appear to utilize in deciding whether advice is appropriate for a problem, including what kinds of solutions are possible for different types of problems, the qualities of good advice and how to communicate it, and the use of a model of the advisee to provide normative assumptions about the advisee's capabilities and motivations; this task-specific knowledge was examined further through subject ratings of the appropriateness of advice. This theory of the mental representation of social knowledge is of interest as an explicit model of the default knowledge people have about interacting with each other; in addition, it is a step toward the development of testable hypotheses about the structure of the knowledge in memory and computer simulations of social reasoning.
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