Hunger increases reinforcement learning rate

Sometimes we plan ahead, thinking about future consequences of our actions. Other times, we select actions based only on their immediate reward associations. Planning ahead is crucial to staying healthy, but might be affected by motivation.

We asked whether hunger affects planned vs directly reinforced action (van Swieten, Bogacz & Manohar Cogn. Aff. Beh. Neurosci. 2021). We found that people learned quicker about action values when they were hungry. Hunger didn’t affect planning.

Overall, hunger may actually improve our decision-making.


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