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A goal-centric outlook on learning

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Trends Cogn Sci. 2023 Sep 9:S1364-6613(23)00207-3. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2023.08.011. Online ahead of print.


Goals play a central role in human cognition. However, computational theories of learning and decision-making often take goals as given. Here, we review key empirical findings showing that goals shape the representations of inputs, responses, and outcomes, such that setting a goal crucially influences the central aspects of any learning process: states, actions, and rewards. We thus argue that studying goal selection is essential to advance our understanding of learning. By following existing literature in framing goal selection within a hierarchy of decision-making problems, we synthesize important findings on the principles underlying goal value attribution and exploration strategies. Ultimately, we propose that a goal-centric perspective will help develop more complete accounts of learning in both biological and artificial agents.

PMID:37696690 | DOI:10.1016/j.tics.2023.08.011

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