Comput Psychiatr. 2020 Nov;4:40-60. doi: 10.1162/cpsy_a_00028.
Social and decision-making deficits are often the first symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders. In recent years, economic games, together with computational models of strategic learning, have been increasingly applied to the characterization of individual differences in social behavior, as well as their changes across time due to disease progression, treatment, or other factors. At the same time, the high dimensionality of these data poses an important challenge to statistical estimation of these models, potentially limiting the adoption of such approaches in patients and special populations. We introduce a hierarchical Bayesian implementation of a class of strategic learning models, experience-weighted attraction (EWA), that is widely used in behavioral game theory. Importantly, this approach provides a unified framework for capturing between- and within-participant variation, including changes associated with disease progression, comorbidity, and treatment status. We show using simulated data that our hierarchical Bayesian approach outperforms representative agent and individual-level estimation methods that are commonly used in extant literature, with respect to parameter estimation and uncertainty quantification. Furthermore, using an empirical dataset, we demonstrate the value of our approach over competing methods with respect to balancing model fit and complexity. Consistent with the success of hierarchical Bayesian approaches in other areas of behavioral science, our hierarchical Bayesian EWA model represents a powerful and flexible tool to apply to a wide range of behavioral paradigms for studying the interplay between complex human behavior and biological factors.