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Journal Article

Efficiency and prioritization of inference-based 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). Efficiency and prioritization of inference-based credit assignment. Current Biology, 31(13), 2747-2756. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.091.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-68E4-2
Organisms adapt to their environments by learning to approach states that predict rewards and avoid states associated with punishments. Knowledge about the affective value of states often relies on credit assignment (CA), whereby state values are updated on the basis of reward feedback. Remarkably, humans assign credit to states that are not observed but are instead inferred based on a cognitive map that represents structural knowledge of an environment. A pertinent example is authors attempting to infer the identity of anonymous reviewers to assign them credit or blame and, on this basis, inform future referee recommendations. Although inference is cognitively costly, it is unknown how it influences CA or how it is apportioned between hidden and observable states (for example, both anonymous and revealed reviewers). We addressed these questions in a task that provided choices between lotteries where each led to a unique pair of occasionally rewarding outcome states. On some trials, both states were observable (rendering inference nugatory), whereas on others, the identity of one of the states was concealed. Importantly, by exploiting knowledge of choice-state associations, subjects could infer the identity of this hidden state. We show that having to perform inference reduces state-value updates. Strikingly, and in violation of normative theories, this reduction in CA was selective for the observed outcome alone. These findings have implications for the operation of putative cognitive maps.