Fractionating the all-or-nothing definition of goal-directed and habitual decision-making

J Neurosci Res. 2020 Jun;98(6):998-1006. doi: 10.1002/jnr.24545. Epub 2019 Oct 23.


Goal-directed and habitual decision-making are fundamental processes that support the ongoing adaptive behavior. There is a growing interest in examining their disruption in psychiatric disease, often with a focus on a disease shifting control from one process to the other, usually a shift from goal-directed to habitual control. However, several different experimental procedures can be used to probe whether decision-making is under goal-directed or habitual control, including outcome devaluation and contingency degradation. These different experimental procedures may recruit diverse behavioral and neural processes. Thus, there are potentially many opportunities for these disease phenotypes to manifest as alterations to both goal-directed and habitual controls. In this review, we highlight the examples of behavioral and neural circuit divergence and similarity, and suggest that interpretation based on behavioral processes recruited during testing may leave more room for goal-directed and habitual decision-making to coexist. Furthermore, this may improve our understanding of precisely what the involved neural mechanisms underlying aspects of goal-directed and habitual behavior are, as well as how disease affects behavior and these circuits.

Keywords: contingency degradation; decision-making; goal-directed; habits; outcome devaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Goals*
  • Habits*