Can an algorithm become delusional? Evaluating ontological commitments and methodology of computational psychiatry
Broeker MD., Broome MR.
AbstractThe computational approach to psychiatric disorders, including delusions, promises explanation and treatment. Here, we argue that an information processing approach might be misleading to understand psychopathology and requires further refinement. We explore the claim of computational psychiatry being a bridge between phenomenology and physiology while focussing on the ontological commitments and corresponding methodology computational psychiatry is based on. Interconnecting ontological claims and methodological practices, the paper illustrates the structure of theory-building and testing in computational psychiatry.First, we will explain the ontological commitments computational psychiatry is grounded in, the Bayesian Brain hypothesis (BBH) of unconscious inference, paired with normative deontic approaches applied to gauge psychopathology. We then turn to the steps taken in empirical paradigms, from definitions, which are used as starting points, to the operationalisation and isolation of cognitive processes and hypothesis testing based on algorithmic models, to consecutive interpretations regarding the aetiology of psychiatric disorders. We outline how experimental paradigms in computational psychiatry are specifically designed to confirm aberrations in assumed inferential processes, which are thought of as being the underlying core invariant features.We will illustrate a gap between the ontological commitments of computational psychiatry and the operationalisation and testing of the cognition assumed to be relevant for psychopathology. This conceptual gap is of utmost importance when designing computational paradigms and may impede a crisp understanding of the approach. Lastly, in evaluating the conceptual gap, it becomes apparent that the information processing formalism used in computational psychiatry is still grounded in rational cognitive psychology.