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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition - Vol 43, Iss 4

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition® publishes experimental and theoretical studies concerning all aspects of animal behavior processes. Studies of associative, nonassociative, cognitive, perceptual, and motivational processes are welcome.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Competition and facilitation in compound conditioning.
    Despite the generality and theoretical relevance of cue competition phenomena such as blocking and overshadowing, recent findings suggest that these observations may be due to some degree of publication bias, and that we lack insight into the boundary conditions of these phenomena. The present commentary does not question the existence of cue competition phenomena. Rather, I review findings showing that 3 variables, namely (a) relative stimulus duration, (b) contingency, and (c) contiguity parametrically determine not only whether cue competition is observed, but also whether no cue interaction, or cue facilitation occur. I discuss theoretical interpretations and implications of these findings, which may provide illuminating insights into the generality and functional significance of the commonly cited “principles of learning.” (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Inhibitory Pavlovian–instrumental transfer in humans.
    Although there has been extensive research in both humans and rodents regarding the influence of excitatory predictions on action selection, the influence of inhibitory reward predictions is less well understood. We used a feature-negative conditioned inhibition procedure to generate Pavlovian excitors and inhibitors, predicting the presence or absence of specific outcomes, and assessed their influence on action selection using a Pavlovian–instrumental transfer test. Inhibitors predicting the absence of a specific outcome reversed the bias in action selection elicited by outcome-specific excitors; whereas excitors promoted responding on the action associated with the same outcome as the cue, inhibitors shifted responding away from such actions and toward other actions. Furthermore, the influence of the inhibitors on choice reflected the nature of the inhibitory associations learned by participants; those encoding outcome-specific inhibitory associations showed a strong reversal in the bias elicited by the excitors, selectively biasing performance away from the action associated with the to-be-omitted outcome and toward other actions. In contrast, those encoding only general inhibitory associations did not show any bias during the transfer test and instead reduced their performance of both actions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Individual differences: Case studies of rodent and primate intelligence.
    Early in the 20th century, individual differences were a central focus of psychologists. By the end of that century, studies of individual differences had become far less common, and attention to these differences played little role in the development of contemporary theory. To illustrate the important role of individual differences, here we consider variations in intelligence as a compelling example. General intelligence (g) has now been demonstrated in at least 2 distinct genera: primates (including humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and tamarins) and rodents (mice and rats). The expression of general intelligence varies widely across individuals within a species; these variations have tremendous functional consequence, and are attributable to interactions of genes and environment. Here we provide evidence for these assertions, describe the processes that contribute to variations in general intelligence, as well as the methods that underlie the analysis of individual differences. We conclude by describing why consideration of individual differences is critical to our understanding of learning, cognition, and behavior, and illustrate how attention to individual differences can contribute to more effective administration of therapeutic strategies for psychological disorders. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Learned predictiveness and outcome predictability effects are not simply two sides of the same coin.
    The Learned Predictiveness effect refers to the observation that learning about the relationship between a cue and an outcome is influenced by the predictive relevance of the cue for other outcomes. Similarly, the Outcome Predictability effect refers to a recent observation that the previous predictability of an outcome affects learning about this outcome in new situations, too. We hypothesize that both effects may be two manifestations of the same phenomenon and stimuli that have been involved in highly predictive relationships may be learned about faster when they are involved in new relationships regardless of their functional role in predictive learning as cues and outcomes. Four experiments manipulated both the relationships and the function of the stimuli. While we were able to replicate the standard effects, they did not survive a transfer to situations where the functional role of the stimuli changed, that is the outcome of the first phase becomes a cue in the second learning phase or the cue of the first phase becomes the outcome of the second phase. Furthermore, unlike learned predictiveness, there was little indication that the distribution of overt attention in the second phase was influenced by previous predictability. The results suggest that these 2 very similar effects are not manifestations of a more general phenomenon but rather independent from each other. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Dealing with interference: Chimpanzees respond to conflicting cues in a food-choice memory task.
    Interference effects emerge when responding on the basis of task-relevant features is directly pitted against task-irrelevant cues that could lead to errors. To study potential interference effects in a food-choice memory test, 3 chimpanzees were presented with conflicting information in a magnitude judgment task. In Experiment 1, chimpanzees were presented with an ordinal series of colored containers that they sequenced on the basis of relative preference for the different foods that were consistently hidden under the containers. Chimpanzees also were presented with a relative quantity judgment task in which they saw identical containers cover different amounts of a consistent food type. Then, the ordinal and quantity tasks were combined such that the colored containers from the ordinal task were used as covers for the consistent food type from the quantity task. This created instances of congruency (e.g., a highly preferred colored container placed over the largest food quantity) and incongruency (e.g., a highly preferred colored container placed over a small food quantity) between task-relevant and task-irrelevant features. Interference effects were evident when chimpanzees responded on the basis of task-irrelevant features (i.e., container value) rather than task-relevant features (i.e., food quantity), sometimes leading to suboptimal responses in incongruent trial types. Chimpanzees also demonstrated some evidence of the cognitive control needed to inhibit responding based solely on the learned values of the containers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Evidence of a goal-directed process in human Pavlovian-instrumental transfer.
    Cues that signal rewards can motivate reward-seeking behaviors, even for outcomes that are not currently desired. Three experiments examined this phenomenon, using an outcome-selective Pavlovian-instrumental transfer (PIT) design and an outcome devaluation procedure. In Experiment 1, participants learned to perform one response to earn crisps points and another response to earn popcorn points. One outcome was then devalued by adulterating it to make it taste unpleasant. On test, overall response choice was biased toward the outcome that had not been devalued, indicating goal-directed control. Stimuli that signaled crisps and popcorn also biased instrumental response choice toward their respective outcomes (a PIT effect). Most importantly, the strength of this bias was not influenced by the devaluation manipulation. In contrast, Experiment 2 demonstrated that when stimuli signaled equal probability of the two outcomes, cue-elicited response choice was sensitive to the devaluation manipulation. Experiment 3 confirmed this conclusion by demonstrating a selective avoidance of the cued, devalued outcome. Together, these data support a goal-directed model of PIT in which expected outcome probability and value make independent contributions to response choice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Ratios and effect size.
    Responding to a related pair of measurements is often expressed as a single discrimination ratio. Authors have used various discrimination ratios; yet, little information exists to guide their choice. A second use of ratios is to correct for the influence of a nuisance variable on the measurement of interest. I examine 4 discrimination ratios using simulated data sets. Three ratios, of the form a/(a + b), b/(a + b), and (a − b)/(a + b), introduced distortions to their raw data. The fourth ratio, (b − a)/b largely avoided such distortions and was the most sensitive at detecting statistical differences. Effect size statistics were also often improved with a correction ratio. Gustatory sensory preconditioning experiments involved measurement of rats’ sucrose and saline consumption; these flavors served as either a target flavor or a control flavor and were counterbalanced across rats. However, sensory preconditioning was often masked by a bias for sucrose over saline. Sucrose and saline consumption scores were multiplied by the ratio of the overall consumption to the consumption of that flavor alone, which corrected the bias. The general utility of discrimination and correction ratios for data treatment is discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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