Psychological and Neuroscientific Connections with Reinforcement Learning

  • Ashvin Shah
Part of the Adaptation, Learning, and Optimization book series (ALO, volume 12)


The field of Reinforcement Learning (RL) was inspired in large part by research in animal behavior and psychology. Early research showed that animals can, through trial and error, learn to execute behavior that would eventually lead to some (presumably satisfactory) outcome, and decades of subsequent research was (and is still) aimed at discovering the mechanisms of this learning process. This chapter describes behavioral and theoretical research in animal learning that is directly related to fundamental concepts used in RL. It then describes neuroscientific research that suggests that animals and many RL algorithms use very similar learning mechanisms. Along the way, I highlight ways that research in computer science contributes to and can be inspired by research in psychology and neuroscience.


Basal Ganglion Classical Conditioning Dopamine Neuron Ventral Striatum Associative Strength 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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