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Journal Article

Human subjects exploit a cognitive map for credit assignment


Dayan,  P
Department of Computational Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Moran, R., Dayan, P., & Dolan, R. (2021). Human subjects exploit a cognitive map for credit assignment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(4), 1-12. doi:10.1073/pnas.2016884118.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-D310-8
An influential reinforcement learning framework proposes that behavior is jointly governed by model-free (MF) and model-based (MB) controllers. The former learns the values of actions directly from past encounters, and the latter exploits a cognitive map of the task to calculate these prospectively. Considerable attention has been paid to how these systems interact during choice, but how and whether knowledge of a cognitive map contributes to the way MF and MB controllers assign credit (i.e., to how they revaluate actions and states following the receipt of an outcome) remains underexplored. Here, we examine such sophisticated credit assignment using a dual-outcome bandit task. We provide evidence that knowledge of a cognitive map influences credit assignment in both MF and MB systems, mediating subtly different aspects of apparent relevance. Specifically, we show MF credit assignment is enhanced for those rewards that are related to a choice, and this contrasted with choice-unrelated rewards that reinforced subsequent choices negatively. This modulation is only possible based on knowledge of task structure. On the other hand, MB credit assignment was boosted for outcomes that impacted on differences in values between offered bandits. We consider mechanistic accounts and the normative status of these findings. We suggest the findings extend the scope and sophistication of cognitive map-based credit assignment during reinforcement learning, with implications for understanding behavioral control.