Interaction of goal-directed and Pavlovian systems in aversive domains


Recent neuroscientific models of human behavior distinguish between different cognitive controllers: two instrumental systems (goal-directed and habitual) that maximize utility through learned actions, and the Pavlovian system, which implements innate reactive responses. Although the interaction between instrumental and Pavlovian controllers has been suggested as a key process underlying emotional phenomena and surprising forms of misbehavior, few is known about it, especially in the sensorimotor aversive domain. With a combined experimental and computational approach, we study the interactions between goal-directed and Pavlovian processes in the aversive domain. First, we present a human experiment in which goal-directed and Pavlovian systems compete in order to control responses. The results indicate that Pavlovian processes can significantly interfere with goal-directed behavior. Second, we compare four alternative Bayesian models for their accuracy in modeling human performance. The results indicate a better fit for an architecture in which Pavlovian controller can use both model-based and model-free features.

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