Latent learning, cognitive maps, and curiosity

Maya Zhe Wang, Benjamin Y. Hayden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


Curiosity is a desire for information that is not motivated by strategic concerns. Latent learning is not driven by standard reinforcement processes. We propose that curiosity serves the purpose of motivating latent learning. While latent learning is often treated as a passive or incidental process, it normally reflects a strong evolved pressure to actively seek large amounts of information. That information in turn allows curious decision makers to represent the structure of their environment, that is, to form cognitive maps. These cognitive maps then drive adaptive flexible behavior. Based on recent data, we propose that orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) play complementary roles in curiosity-driven learning. Specifically, we propose that (1) OFC tracks intrinsic value of information and incorporates new information into a cognitive map; and (2) dACC tracks the environmental demands and information availability to then use the cognitive map from OFC to guide behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant R01 DA038106 (to BYH).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


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