BRC  -Thrust 1: Biophysical Modeling of Satisficing Control Strategies as Derived from Quantification of Primate Brain Activity and Psychophysics




September 1, 2013 – August 31, 2017



Program on Science of Autonomy


Silvia Ferrari (Cornell), Marc Sommer (Duke), and Tobias Egner (Duke)

Project Description

This project uses phsychophysical and neurophysiological experiments in human and non-human primates to develop an adaptive toolbox for satisficing search and inference. The adaptive toolbox model will be demonstrated on engineered autonomous systems engaged in sensorimotor problems, such as dynamic target tracking and surveillance, subject to environmental pressures and constraints inspired by satisficing-research studies in cognitive science and neuroscience, such as redundant cues and interrupted sensory signals. This research is expected to bring about significant advancements in the state-of-the-art in satisficing strategies for autonomous systems and facilitate cooperation between autonomous systems and humans.

Research Goals

  • Characterizing and modeling basic satisficing behavior in human and non-human primates
  • Assessing human satisficing in Treasure Hunt Problems
  • Identifying neural substrates of human satisficing
  • Determining causal role of brain regions in satisficing

Peer-Reviewed Publications

  1. Oh-Descher, H., Beck, J. M., Ferrari, S., Sommer, M. A., & Egner, T. (2017) “Probabilistic inference under time pressure leads to a cortical-to-subcortical shift in decision evidence integration,” NeuroImage, 162, 138-150.[PDF]
  2. Oh, H., Beck, J. M., Zhu, P., Sommer, M. A., Ferrari, S., & Egner, T. (2016). Satisficing in split-second decision making is characterized by strategic cue discounting. Journal of experimental psychology: learning, memory, and cognition, 42(12), 1937.


  1. “Immersive Satisficing Treasure Hunts,” 9th Annual ONR Science of Autonomy Meeting, Arlington, VA, August 2017 [PDF]
  2. “Biophysical Modeling of Satisficing Control Strategies as Derived from Quantification of Primate Brain Activity and Psychophysics,” ONR Science of Autonomy Program Review, August, 2016. [PDF]