A stimulus-location effect in contingency-governed, but not rule-based, discrimination learning
Lea, Stephen E.G.
McLaren, Ian P.L.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition
American Psychological Association
We tested pigeons' acquisition of a conditional discrimination task between coloured grating stimuli that included choosing one of two response keys, which either appeared as white keys to the left and right of the discriminative stimulus, or were replicas of the stimulus. Pigeons failed to acquire the discrimination when the response keys were white disks but succeeded when directly responding to a replica of the stimulus. These results highlight how conditioning processes shape learning in pigeons: the results can be accounted for by supposing that, when pigeons were allowed to respond directly towards the stimulus, learning was guided by classical conditioning; responding to white keys demanded instrumental learning, which impaired task acquisition for pigeons. In contrast, humans completing the same paradigm showed no differential learning success depending on whether figure or position indicated the correct key. However, only participants who could state the underlying discrimination rule acquired the task, which implies that human performance in this situation relied on the deduction and application of task rules instead of associative processes.
Manuscript submitted for publication. Please do not cite or quote without permission from the first author. © 2015 C. Meier, S. E. G. Lea & I. P. L. McLaren
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