Learn from Your Mistakes

Science's STKE  11 Dec 2007:
Vol. 2007, Issue 416, pp. tw450
DOI: 10.1126/stke.4162007tw450

Human experience is based on learning that our actions affect subsequent positive or negative outcomes. Rewards strengthen associations between contextual stimuli and actions, thereby reinforcing and maintaining successful behavior, whereas punishments induce avoidance of erroneous actions. While we usually learn from both positive and negative reinforcement, the relative amount of learning from success or errors varies between individuals. Klein et al. investigated a human genetic polymorphism associated with the density of brain dopamine D2 receptor. Reduced D2 receptor density was associated with less-efficient learning from errors. In people with lower D2 receptor density, the reduced capacity to learn from errors was accompanied by reduced feedback-related activity in the posterior medial frontal cortex, an area known to monitor for negative action outcomes.

T. A. Klein, J. Neumann, M. Reuter, J. Hennig, D. Y. von Cramon, M. Ullsperger, Genetically determined differences in learning from errors. Science 318, 1642-1645 (2007). [Abstract] [Full Text]