NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Back to results
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ860871
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Dec
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0277
Rational and Mechanistic Perspectives on Reinforcement Learning
Chater, Nick
Cognition, v113 n3 p350-364 Dec 2009
This special issue describes important recent developments in applying reinforcement learning models to capture neural and cognitive function. But reinforcement learning, as a theoretical framework, can apply at two very different levels of description: "mechanistic" and "rational." Reinforcement learning is often viewed in mechanistic terms--as describing the operation of aspects of an agent's cognitive and neural machinery. Yet it can also be viewed as a rational level of description, specifically, as describing a class of methods for learning from experience, using minimal background knowledge. This paper considers how rational and mechanistic perspectives differ, and what types of evidence distinguish between them. Reinforcement learning research in the cognitive and brain sciences is often implicitly committed to the mechanistic interpretation. Here the opposite view is put forward: that accounts of reinforcement learning should apply at the rational level, unless there is strong evidence for a mechanistic interpretation. Implications of this viewpoint for reinforcement-based theories in the cognitive and brain sciences are discussed.
Elsevier. 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, FL 32887-4800. Tel: 877-839-7126; Tel: 407-345-4020; Fax: 407-363-1354; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A