Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Behavioral choice can be characterized along two axes. One axis distinguishes reflexive, model-free systems that slowly accumulate values through experience and a model-based system that uses knowledge to reason prospectively. The second axis distinguishes Pavlovian valuation of stimuli from instrumental valuation of actions or stimulus–action pairs. This results in four values and many possible interactions between them, with important consequences for accounts of individual variation. We here explored whether individual variation along one axis was related to individual variation along the other. Specifically, we asked whether individuals' balance between model-based and model-free learning was related to their tendency to show Pavlovian interferences with instrumental decisions. In two independent samples with a total of 243 participants, Pavlovian–instrumental transfer effects were negatively correlated with the strength of model-based reasoning in a two-step task. This suggests a potential common underlying substrate predisposing individuals to both have strong Pavlovian interference and be less model-based and provides a framework within which to interpret the observation of both effects in addiction.