Working memory capacity estimates moderate value learning for outcome-irrelevant features

Ido Ben-Artzi*, Roy Luria, Nitzan Shahar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


To establish accurate action-outcome associations in the environment, individuals must refrain from assigning value to outcome-irrelevant features. However, studies have largely ignored the role of attentional control processes on action value updating. In the current study, we examined the extent to which working memory—a system that can filter and block the processing of irrelevant information in one’s mind—also filters outcome-irrelevant information during value-based learning. For this aim, 174 individuals completed a well-established working memory capacity measurement and a reinforcement learning task designed to estimate outcome-irrelevant learning. We replicated previous studies showing a group-level tendency to assign value to tasks’ response keys, despite clear instructions and practice suggesting they are irrelevant to the prediction of monetary outcomes. Importantly, individuals with higher working memory capacity were less likely to assign value to the outcome-irrelevant response keys, thus suggesting a significant moderation effect of working memory capacity on outcome-irrelevant learning. We discuss the role of working memory processing on value-based learning through the lens of a cognitive control failure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19677
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation2536/20, 862/17


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