Action Discovery and Intrinsic Motivation: A Biologically Constrained Formalisation

  • Kevin Gurney
  • Nathan Lepora
  • Ashvin Shah
  • Ansgar Koene
  • Peter Redgrave


We introduce a biologically motivated, formal framework or “ontology” for dealing with many aspects of action discovery which we argue is an example of intrinsically motivated behaviour (as such, this chapter is a companion to that by Redgrave et al. in this volume). We argue that action discovery requires an interplay between separate internal forward models of prediction and inverse models mapping outcomes to actions. The process of learning actions is driven by transient changes in the animal’s policy (repetition bias) which is, in turn, a result of unpredicted, phasic sensory information (“surprise”). The notion of salience as value is introduced and broken down into contributions from novelty (or surprise), immediate reward acquisition, or general task/goal attainment. Many other aspects of biological action discovery emerge naturally in our framework which aims to guide future modelling efforts in this domain.


Intrinsic Motivation Superior Colliculus Motivate Learning Internal Model Inverse Model 
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.



Written while the authors were in receipt of research funding from The Wellcome Trust, BBSRC and EPSRC.

This research has also received funds from the European Commission 7th Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013), “Challenge 2 - Cognitive Systems, Interaction, Robotics”, Grant Agreement No. ICT-IP-231722, Project “IM-CLeVeR—Intrinsically Motivated Cumulative Learning Versatile Robots”. (NL was partially supported by EU Framework project EFAA (ICT-270490))


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Gurney
    • 1
  • Nathan Lepora
    • 1
  • Ashvin Shah
    • 1
  • Ansgar Koene
    • 2
  • Peter Redgrave
    • 1
  1. 1.Adaptive Behaviour Research Group, Department of PsychologyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Laboratory for Integrated Theoretical NeuroscienceRIKEN Brain Science InstituteSaitamaJapan

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