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Learned changes in outcome associability

Quigley, Martyn C.; Eatherington, Carla J.; Haselgrove, Mark


Martyn C. Quigley

Carla J. Eatherington


When a cue reliably predicts an outcome, the associability of that cue will change. Associative theories of learning propose this change will persist even when the same cue is paired with a different outcome. These theories, however, do not extend the same privilege to an outcome; an outcome’s learning history is deemed to have no bearing on subsequent new learning involving that outcome. Two experiments were conducted which sought to investigate this assumption inherent in these theories using a serial letter-prediction task. In both experiments participants were exposed, in Stage 1, to a predictable outcome (‘X’) and an unpredictable outcome (‘Z’). In Stage 2 participants were exposed to the same outcomes preceded by novel cues which were equally predictive of both outcomes. Both experiments revealed that participants’ learning toward the previously predictable outcome was more rapid in Stage 2 than the previously unpredicted outcome. The implications of these results for theories of associative learning are discussed.


Quigley, M. C., Eatherington, C. J., & Haselgrove, M. (2018). Learned changes in outcome associability. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72(2), 209-221.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 11, 2017
Online Publication Date Jun 19, 2017
Publication Date Jan 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jul 31, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jul 31, 2017
Journal Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Print ISSN 1747-0218
Electronic ISSN 1747-0226
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 72
Issue 2
Pages 209-221
Keywords Outcome processing; Learning; Associability; Attention; Associative learning
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology on 19 Jun 2017, available online:


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