How mood influcences learning, concretely perception of rewards in the context of reinforcement learning

Eran Eldar, Robb B. Rutledge, Raymond J. Dolan, Yael Niv, Mood as Representation of Momentum, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 20, Issue 1, January 2016, Pages 15-24, ISSN 1364-6613, DOI: j.tics.2015.07.010.

Experiences affect mood, which in turn affects subsequent experiences. Recent studies suggest two specific principles. First, mood depends on how recent reward outcomes differ from expectations. Second, mood biases the way we perceive outcomes (e.g., rewards), and this bias affects learning about those outcomes. We propose that this two-way interaction serves to mitigate inefficiencies in the application of reinforcement learning to real-world problems. Specifically, we propose that mood represents the overall momentum of recent outcomes, and its biasing influence on the perception of outcomes ‘corrects’ learning to account for environmental dependencies. We describe potential dysfunctions of this adaptive mechanism that might contribute to the symptoms of mood disorders.

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