Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Explicit information obtained through instruction profoundly shapes human choice behaviour. However, this has been studied in computationally simple tasks, and it is unknown how model-based and model-free systems, respectively generating goal-directed and habitual actions, are affected by the absence or presence of instructions. We assessed behaviour in a variant of a computationally more complex decision-making task, before and after providing information about task structure, both in healthy volunteers and in individuals suffering from obsessive-compulsive or other disorders. Initial behaviour was model-free, with rewards directly reinforcing preceding actions. Model-based control, employing predictions of states resulting from each action, emerged with experience in a minority of participants, and less in those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Providing task structure information strongly increased model-based control, similarly across all groups. Thus, in humans, explicit task structural knowledge is a primary determinant of model-based reinforcement learning and is most readily acquired from instruction rather than experience.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Hum Behav

Publication Date





1126 - 1141


Humans, Knowledge, Motivation, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Reinforcement, Psychology, Reward