City Research Online

Active Inference, epistemic value, and vicarious trial and error

Pezzulo, G., Cartoni, E., Rigoli, F. , Pio-Lopez, L. & Friston, K. J. (2016). Active Inference, epistemic value, and vicarious trial and error. Learning & Memory, 23(7), pp. 322-338. doi: 10.1101/lm.041780.116


Balancing habitual and deliberate forms of choice entails a comparison of their respective merits—the former being faster but inflexible, and the latter slower but more versatile. Here, we show that arbitration between these two forms of control can be derived from first principles within an Active Inference scheme. We illustrate our arguments with simulations that reproduce rodent spatial decisions in T-mazes. In this context, deliberation has been associated with vicarious trial and error (VTE) behavior (i.e., the fact that rodents sometimes stop at decision points as if deliberating between choice alternatives), whose neurophysiological correlates are “forward sweeps” of hippocampal place cells in the arms of the maze under consideration. Crucially, forward sweeps arise early in learning and disappear shortly after, marking a transition from deliberative to habitual choice. Our simulations show that this transition emerges as the optimal solution to the trade-off between policies that maximize reward or extrinsic value (habitual policies) and those that also consider the epistemic value of exploratory behavior (deliberative or epistemic policies)—the latter requiring VTE and the retrieval of episodic information via forward sweeps. We thus offer a novel perspective on the optimality principles that engender forward sweeps and VTE, and on their role on deliberate choice.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of learn_mem.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (2MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login