The successor representation and temporal context

Samuel J. Gershman, Christopher D. Moore, Michael T. Todd, Kenneth A. Norman, Per B. Sederberg

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The successor representationwas introduced into reinforcement learning by Dayan (1993) as a means of facilitating generalization between states with similar successors. Although reinforcement learning in general has been used extensively as a model of psychological and neural processes, the psychological validity of the successor representation has yet to be explored. An interesting possibility is that the successor representation can be used not only for reinforcement learning but for episodic learning as well. Our main contribution is to show that a variant of the temporal context model (TCM; Howard & Kahana, 2002), an influential model of episodic memory, can be understood as directly estimating the successor representation using the temporal difference learning algorithm (Sutton & Barto, 1998). This insight leads to a generalization of TCM and new experimental predictions. In addition to casting a new normative light on TCM, this equivalence suggests a previously unexplored point of contact between different learning systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1553-1568
Number of pages16
JournalNeural computation
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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