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Bonsai trees in your head: how the pavlovian system sculpts goal-directed choices by pruning decision trees.

Huys, QJ; Eshel, N; O'Nions, E; Sheridan, L; Dayan, P; Roiser, JP; (2012) Bonsai trees in your head: how the pavlovian system sculpts goal-directed choices by pruning decision trees. PLoS Comput Biol , 8 (3) , Article e1002410. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002410. Green open access

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Abstract

When planning a series of actions, it is usually infeasible to consider all potential future sequences; instead, one must prune the decision tree. Provably optimal pruning is, however, still computationally ruinous and the specific approximations humans employ remain unknown. We designed a new sequential reinforcement-based task and showed that human subjects adopted a simple pruning strategy: during mental evaluation of a sequence of choices, they curtailed any further evaluation of a sequence as soon as they encountered a large loss. This pruning strategy was Pavlovian: it was reflexively evoked by large losses and persisted even when overwhelmingly counterproductive. It was also evident above and beyond loss aversion. We found that the tendency towards Pavlovian pruning was selectively predicted by the degree to which subjects exhibited sub-clinical mood disturbance, in accordance with theories that ascribe Pavlovian behavioural inhibition, via serotonin, a role in mood disorders. We conclude that Pavlovian behavioural inhibition shapes highly flexible, goal-directed choices in a manner that may be important for theories of decision-making in mood disorders.

Type: Article
Title: Bonsai trees in your head: how the pavlovian system sculpts goal-directed choices by pruning decision trees.
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002410
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002410
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright: © 2012 Huys et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: NE was funded by the Marshall Commission and PD by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Keywords: Algorithms, Computer Simulation, Decision Making, Goals, Humans, Models, Neurological, Reinforcement (Psychology), Task Performance and Analysis
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1344961
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