Thursday 28th July 2011
Seminar Room B10 (Basement)
Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3AR
Two Mechanisms of Human Contingency Learning
How do humans learn contingencies between events? Several types of process models have been proposed, including pathway strengthening and inference-based models. We propose that each of these processes is used in different task conditions. Human participants viewed displays containing single or paired objects and learned which displays were usually followed by a dot. Some participants predicted whether the dot would appear and then saw the outcome, while others were required to respond quickly if the dot appeared shortly after the objects. For predict participants, instructions guiding participants to infer which objects had the power to cause the outcome determined whether contingencies associated with one object affected predictions about its pair mate. For respond participants, contingencies associated with one object affected responses to the mate, whether or not independent cause instructions were provided. The results challenge single-mechanism accounts and support the proposal that the mechanisms underlying performance in the two tasks are distinct.