Ben Prystawski


I am PhD Student in the psychology department at Stanford University, advised by Professor Noah Goodman. Before starting my PhD, I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, where I studied computer science and cognitive scienceand worked with Professors Yang Xu, Joseph Jay Williams, Daphna Buchsbaum, and Falk Lieder.

My research focuses on understanding human reasoning and cultural learning. I am interested in the question of why reasoning enables us to make better inferences that we generally make directly: we don’t get any new data from the world when we reason, so what does it do for us? On the cultural learning side, I study how constraints on how much information one generation can transmit to the next shape the trajectory of intergenerational learning. These topics intersect in questions about how cultural learning can produce abstractions that are useful to reasoning and how examples of successful reasoning from previous generations can inform how we reason. I use a combination of computational modelling and behavioral experiments to answer these questions.

selected publications

  1. Why think step by step? Reasoning emerges from the locality of experience
    Ben Prystawski, Michael Y Li, and Noah D Goodman
    Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems, 2023
  2. Cultural reinforcement learning: a framework for modeling cumulative culture on a limited channel
    Ben Prystawski, Dilip Arumugam, and Noah Goodman
    In Proceedings of the 45th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 2023
  3. Resource-rational Models of Human Goal Pursuit
    Ben Prystawski, Florian Mohnert, Mateo Tošić, and Falk Lieder
    Topics in Cognitive Science, 2022