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Publication Detail
Overcoming Pavlovian bias in semantic space
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Ereira S, Pujol M, Guitart-Masip M, Dolan RJ, Kurth-Nelson Z
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Scientific Reports
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
  • Status:
© 2021, The Author(s). Action is invigorated in the presence of reward-predicting stimuli and inhibited in the presence of punishment-predicting stimuli. Although valuable as a heuristic, this Pavlovian bias can also lead to maladaptive behaviour and is implicated in addiction. Here we explore whether Pavlovian bias can be overcome through training. Across five experiments, we find that Pavlovian bias is resistant to unlearning under most task configurations. However, we demonstrate that when subjects engage in instrumental learning in a verbal semantic space, as opposed to a motoric space, not only do they exhibit the typical Pavlovian bias, but this Pavlovian bias diminishes with training. Our results suggest that learning within the semantic space is necessary, but not sufficient, for subjects to unlearn their Pavlovian bias, and that other task features, such as gamification and spaced stimulus presentation may also be necessary. In summary, we show that Pavlovian bias, whilst robust, is susceptible to change with experience, but only under specific environmental conditions.
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