A Mechanism Design Approach to Measure Awareness
In this paper, we study protocols that allow to discern conscious and unconscious decisions of human beings; i.e., protocols that measure awareness. Consciousness is a central research theme in Neuroscience and AI, which remains, to date, an obscure phenomenon of human brains. Our starting point is a recent experiment, called Post Decision Wagering (PDW) (Persaud, McLeod, and Cowey 2007), that attempts to align experimenters' and subjects' objectives by leveraging financial incentives. We note a similarity with mechanism design, a research area which aims at the design of protocols that reconcile often divergent objectives through incentive-compatibility. We look at the issue of measuring awareness from this perspective. We abstract the setting underlying the PDW experiment and identify three factors that could make it ineffective: rationality, risk attitude and bias of subjects. Using mechanism design tools, we study the barrier between possibility and impossibility of incentive compatibility with respect to the aforementioned characteristics of subjects. We complete this study by showing how to use our mechanisms to potentially get a better understanding of consciousness.