Modelling of Self-Control






Project Leader
Chris Christodoulou

Gaye Banfield

Denis Mareschal
Peter Sozou

Project Details
36 month duration

Psychology, artificial neural networks, game theory, reinforcement learning


Modelling of self-control through pre-commitment in a functionally decomposed connectionist architecture

Project Description

The project aims to investigate how evolution has resulted in self control such that people must use precommitment behaviour to control their future actions. It will do this by computational model of the neural system. An example of a self control problem is eating too much and hence feeling unhealthy. To overcome self control problems people engage in precommitment behaviour. An example of self control through precommitment is keeping chocolate biscuits out of your house to prevent late-night binges. Why do people need to engage in this behaviour? Is this behaviour learned as part of socialisation or are we born with this capacity? The proposed research aims to go some way to answering these questions. An artificial neural system will be developed inspired by  the known neurophysiology of the brain. It will play a variety of games in different environments. The parameters that define the network will be subjected to simulation of evolutionary adaptation. The behaviours that evolve will be evaluated to determine if self control through precommitment is a biological by-product; a result of an internal conflict of the brain, or adaptive.


A detailed theory for the evolution of self control promises to provide a foundation for a science of self control which will eventually be able to predict both the circumstances expected to induce greater self control and the forms of self control induced. The theory will enable problems of self control to be identified and rectified, and thus the research will have a significant impact in the area of healthcare with direct beneficiaries being the general public. The research will aim to answer questions such as: Can self control be learned? At what age is our level of self control fixed? This will facilitate the advancement of academic knowledge in related disciplines. The main field of study is computational neuroscience; however the research touches on a wide spectrum of subjects, most notably cognitive science and game theory. The extent to which reinforcement learning can be realised in games that more closely model real life situations will interest game theorists and economists. The results from the later stages of the project will contribute to bridging the gap between the modelling community and experimentalists.


[1] Banfield, G. and Christodoulou, C. (2003). On Reinforcement Learning in Two Player "Real-World" Games. Proceedings of the Joint International Conference (ICCS ASCS) on Cognitive Science, Sydney, Australia, July 2003, 22.
[2] Banfield G. and Christodoulou C. (2004), Can Self-Control be Explained through Games, Book of Abstracts of the 9th Neural Computation and Psychology Workshop (NCPW9), Plymouth, UK, September 2004, 10.


Last Updated ( Monday, 06 August 2007 )