A selectionist account of de novo action learning

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2011 Aug;21(4):579-86. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2011.05.004. Epub 2011 Jun 9.


How are novel actions generated and learned? We introduce a selectionist view of de novo action learning, and present some of the main postulates of such a view. This view contrasts with the notion that all actions are generated in response to particular stimuli and hence instructed by the world. It postulates that actions are generated in the actor (the organism) and selected by the environment (stimuli). Selection may occur iteratively until actions can be executed more rapidly and precisely, less variably, and eventually be elicited by particular stimuli. We also discuss experiments that support the particular predictions of this theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Reaction Time


  • Dopamine