Rumination derails reinforcement learning with possible implications for ineffective behavior

Citation:

Hitchcock, P., Forman, E., Rothstein, N., Zhang, F., Kounios, J., Niv, Y., & Sims, C. (Forthcoming). Rumination derails reinforcement learning with possible implications for ineffective behavior.

Abstract:

How does rumination affect reinforcement learning — the ubiquitous process by which we adjust behavior after error in order to behave more effectively in the future? In a within-subject design (n=49), we tested whether experimentally induced rumination disrupts reinforcement learning in a multidimensional learning task previously shown to rely on selective attention. Rumination impaired performance, yet unexpectedly this impairment could not be attributed to decreased attentional breadth (quantified using a “decay” parameter in a computational model). Instead, trait rumination (between subjects) was associated with higher decay rates (implying narrower attention), yet not with impaired performance. Our task-performance results accord with the possibility that state rumination promotes stress-generating behavior in part by disrupting reinforcement learning. The trait-rumination finding accords with the predictions of a prominent model of trait rumination (the attentional-scope model). More work is needed to understand the specific mechanisms by which state rumination disrupts reinforcement learning.

Preprint

Last updated on 03/02/2021