Yaniv Abir

I’m a postdoctroal reseracher at University College London, in the lab of Quentin Huys, working on understanding the effects of antidepressants on learning, and the relation of these effects to their potency in ameliorating depressive symptoms.

I completed my PhD at Columbia University, in the lab of Daphna Shohamy. My research was co-advised by Michael Shadlen.

Broadly, I’m interested in how humans explore their environment and plan their future actions in the service of their goals. I work with controlled experimental tasks that can be carefully analyzed and modeled to reveal the underlying principles guiding human choices. I’m interested in using the insights thus gained to examine more free-form and natural human behavior in response to rich everyday stimuli.

My PhD research focused on understanding the computations driving human exploration and curiosity. Is studied behavious across a spectrum of explatory motivations, from clearly goal-directed and self-interested exploration (e.g. when studying for a high-stakes test), to open-ended curiosity on a variety of topics. While this latter type of curiosity has often been portrayed as erratic, irrational, or goal-independent, we have shown that it obeys the same principles of motivation as does goal-directed behavior. I believe that the difference between so-called goal-directed exploration and open-ended curiosity are more methodological than substantial. I find that thinking about curiosity as entirely goal-dependent is an incredibly useful starting point for research.