Goals and habits in the brain

Neuron. 2013 Oct 16;80(2):312-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.09.007.


An enduring and richly elaborated dichotomy in cognitive neuroscience is that of reflective versus reflexive decision making and choice. Other literatures refer to the two ends of what is likely to be a spectrum with terms such as goal-directed versus habitual, model-based versus model-free or prospective versus retrospective. One of the most rigorous traditions of experimental work in the field started with studies in rodents and graduated via human versions and enrichments of those experiments to a current state in which new paradigms are probing and challenging the very heart of the distinction. We review four generations of work in this tradition and provide pointers to the forefront of the field's fifth generation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Goals*
  • Habits*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*