Cognitive Control Predicts Use of Model-based Reinforcement Learning

A. Ross Otto, Anya Skatova, Seth Madlon-Kay, Nathaniel D. Daw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Accounts of decision-making and its neural substrates have long posited the operation of separate, competing valuation systems in the control of choice behavior. Recent theoretical and experimental work suggest that this classic distinction between behaviorally and neurally dissociable systems for habitual and goal-directed (or more generally, automatic and controlled) choice may arise from two computational strategies for reinforcement learning (RL), called model-free and model-based RL, but the cognitive or computational processes by which one system may dominate over the other in the control of behavior is amatter of ongoing investigation. To elucidate this question, we leverage the theoretical framework of cognitive control, demonstrating that individual differences in utilization of goal-related contextual information—in the service of overcoming habitual, stimulusdriven responses—in established cognitive control paradigms predict model-based behavior in a separate, sequential choice task. The behavioral correspondence between cognitive control and model-based RL compellingly suggests that a common set of processes may underpin the two behaviors. In particular, computational mechanisms originally proposed to underlie controlled behavior may be applicable to understanding the interactions betweenmodel-based andmodel-free choice behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-333
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of cognitive neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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