Hebbian synapses lie at the heart of most associative matrix memories (Kohonen 1987; Hinton and Anderson 1981) and are also biologically plausible (Brown et al. 1990; Baudry and Davis 1991). Their analytical and computational tractability make these memories the best understood form of distributed information storage. A variety of Hebbian algorithms for estimating the covariance between input and output patterns has been proposed. This note points out that one class of these involves stochastic estimation of the covariance, shows that the signal-to-noise ratios of the rules are governed by the variances of their estimates, and considers some parallels in reinforcement learning.