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Our knowledge about the state of the world is often incomplete, making it difficult to select the best course of action. One strategy that can be used to improve our ability to make decisions is to identify the causes of our ignorance (i.e., why an unexpected event might have occurred) and use estimates of the uncertainty induced by these causes to guide our learning. Here, we explain the logic behind this process and describe the evidence that human learners use estimates of uncertainty to sculpt their learning. Finally, we describe recent work suggesting that misestimation of uncertainty is involved in the development of anxiety and depression and describe how these ideas may be advanced.

Original publication




Journal article


Trends Cogn Sci

Publication Date





865 - 875


affective processing, anxiety, computational modelling, depression, learning, uncertainty, Anxiety, Cognition, Computer Simulation, Depression, Humans, Learning, Mood Disorders, Probability, Uncertainty