The role of reinforcement learning and value-based decision-making frameworks in understanding food choice and eating behaviors

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3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The obesogenic food environment includes easy access to highly-palatable, energy-dense, “ultra-processed” foods that are heavily marketed to consumers; therefore, it is critical to understand the neurocognitive processes the underlie overeating in response to environmental food-cues (e.g., food images, food branding/advertisements). Eating habits are learned through reinforcement, which is the process through which environmental food cues become valued and influence behavior. This process is supported by multiple behavioral control systems (e.g., Pavlovian, Habitual, Goal-Directed). Therefore, using neurocognitive frameworks for reinforcement learning and value-based decision-making can improve our understanding of food-choice and eating behaviors. Specifically, the role of reinforcement learning in eating behaviors was considered using the frameworks of (1) Sign-versus Goal-Tracking Phenotypes; (2) Model-Free versus Model-Based; and (3) the Utility or Value-Based Model. The sign-and goal-tracking phenotypes may contribute a mechanistic insight on the role of food-cue incentive salience in two prevailing models of overconsumption–the Extended Behavioral Susceptibility Theory and the Reactivity to Embedded Food Cues in Advertising Model. Similarly, the model-free versus model-based framework may contribute insight to the Extended Behavioral Susceptibility Theory and the Healthy Food Promotion Model. Finally, the value-based model provides a framework for understanding how all three learning systems are integrated to influence food choice. Together, these frameworks can provide mechanistic insight to existing models of food choice and overconsumption and may contribute to the development of future prevention and treatment efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1021868
JournalFrontiers in Nutrition
Volume9
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 22 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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