ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (8): 1337-1350.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2020.01337

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Dual system theory of physical activity: A reinforcement learning perspective

CHU Xin-Yu1,3, WANG Ze-Jun2(), XIAO Huan-Yu3   

  1. 1 Shanghai University of Engineering Science, Department of Physical Education, Shanghai 201620, China
    2 Tongji University, International College of Football, Shanghai 200092, China
    3 Shanghai University of Sport, School of Leisure Sport, Shanghai 200438, China
  • Received:2019-10-24 Online:2020-08-15 Published:2020-06-28
  • Contact: WANG Ze-Jun


Exercise behavior theory based on rational decision making is regarded as the dominant framework for understanding physical activity, which provides valuable information on cognitive constructs linked to physical activity. Behavioral interventions based on social ecological model have attracted much attention due to its better performance. However, recent studies show that exercise benefits cognition and current sport environment do not promote the formation of individual exercise habit, so it is necessary to explore a new theoretical framework to clarify the formation mechanism of individual exercise habit. The latest framework for explaining physical activity is dual system model, which promises to provide a broader perspective on motivation by considering the non-conscious and hedonic determinants of physical activity. Multiple representative dual system models associated with physical activity, on the one hand, from simple spontaneous path to context cues and exercise habit, and then to complex concept model highlighting the role of automatic affective evaluations, the construct of system 1 is elaborated. Combined with system 2, which is concerned by exercise behavior theory, they offer a basis on how to build dual system model for physical activity. On the other hand, through analysis of the principle for competitive, cooperative and hierarchical control of dual systems, proposals are provided for the control of dual system model. Canonical reinforcement learning framework explains the principle for construct and control of dual system model: in terms of construct of the model, model-free and model-based reinforcement learning represent system 1 and system 2, respectively. In terms of control of the model, Dyna cooperative architecture and hierarchical reinforcement learning provide a reasonable explanation for physical activity is more likely to be a complex combination of actions which is hierarchically operated with a cooperative form than competitive control. Finally, the exerciser-sport environment interaction in reinforcement learning is put forward to explore exercise behavior from a brand-new perspective.

Key words: physical activity, dual system model, theory of planned behavior, exercise habit, reinforcement learning

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