Reinforcement learning and working memory are two core processes of human cognition and are often considered cognitively, neuroscientifically, and algorithmically distinct. Here, we show that the brain networks that support them actually overlap significantly and that they are less distinct cognitive processes than often assumed. We review literature demonstrating the benefits of considering each process to explain properties of the other and highlight recent work investigating their more complex interactions. We discuss how future research in both computational and cognitive sciences can benefit from one another, suggesting that a key missing piece for artificial agents to learn to behave with more human-like efficiency is taking working memory's role in learning seriously. This review highlights the risks of neglecting the interplay between different processes when studying human behavior (in particular when considering individual differences). We emphasize the importance of investigating these dynamics to build a comprehensive understanding of human cognition.

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