Combining psychological models with machine learning to better predict people’s decisions

Avi Rosenfeld, Inon Zuckerman, Amos Azaria, Sarit Kraus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Creating agents that proficiently interact with people is critical for many applications. Towards creating these agents, models are needed that effectively predict people’s decisions in a variety of problems. To date, two approaches have been suggested to generally describe people’s decision behavior. One approach creates a-priori predictions about people’s behavior, either based on theoretical rational behavior or based on psychological models, including bounded rationality. A second type of approach focuses on creating models based exclusively on observations of people’s behavior. At the forefront of these types of methods are various machine learning algorithms. This paper explores how these two approaches can be compared and combined in different types of domains. In relatively simple domains, both psychological models and machine learning yield clear prediction models with nearly identical results. In more complex domains, the exact action predicted by psychological models is not even clear, and machine learning models are even less accurate. Nonetheless, we present a novel approach of creating hybrid methods that incorporate features from psychological models in conjunction with machine learning in order to create significantly improved models for predicting people’s decisions. To demonstrate these claims, we present an overview of previous and new results, taken from representative domains ranging from a relatively simple optimization problem and complex domains such as negotiation and coordination without communication.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberSupplement-1
Pages (from-to)81-93
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2012


  • Mixed agent-human systems
  • Prediction models
  • Psychological models for people’s decisions


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