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Behavioural signatures of backward planning in animals

Afsardeir, A. & Keramati, M. (2018). Behavioural signatures of backward planning in animals. European Journal of Neuroscience, 47(5), pp. 479-487. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13851


Goal‐directed planning in behavioural and neural sciences is theorized to involve a prospective mental simulation that, starting from the animal's current state in the environment, expands a decision tree in a forward fashion. Backward planning in the artificial intelligence literature, however, suggests that agents expand a mental tree in a backward fashion starting from a certain goal state they have in mind. Here, we show that several behavioural patterns observed in animals and humans, namely outcome‐specific Pavlovian‐to‐instrumental transfer and differential outcome effect, can be parsimoniously explained by backward planning. Our basic assumption is that the presentation of a cue that has been associated with a certain outcome triggers backward planning from that outcome state. On the basis of evidence pointing to forward and backward planning models, we discuss the possibility of brain using a bidirectional planning mechanism where forward and backward trees are expanded in parallel to achieve higher efficiency.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: computational modeling, differential‐outcome effect, Pavlovian‐to‐instrumental transfer, planning, reinforcement learning
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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