Valence biases in reinforcement learning shift across adolescence and modulate subsequent memory

Gail M. Rosenbaum, Hannah L. Grassie, Catherine A. Hartley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As individuals learn through trial and error, some are more influenced by good outcomes, while others weight bad outcomes more heavily. Such valence biases may also influence memory for past experiences. Here, we examined whether valence asymmetries in reinforcement learning change across adolescence, and whether individual learning asymmetries bias the content of subsequent memory. Participants ages 8–27 learned the values of ‘point machines,’ after which their memory for trial-unique images presented with choice outcomes was assessed. Relative to children and adults, adolescents overweighted worse-than-expected outcomes during learning. Individuals’ valence biases modulated incidental memory, such that those who prioritized worse-(or better-) than-expected outcomes during learning were also more likely to remember images paired with these outcomes, an effect reproduced in an independent dataset. Collectively, these results highlight age-related changes in the computation of subjective value and demonstrate that a valence-asymmetric valuation process influences how information is prioritized in episodic memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere64620
StatePublished - Jan 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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