Generalization decrement in human contingency learning.
ABSTRACT An association between a cue and an outcome will generalize to a similar novel cue to some extent, but not completely. Learning theorists refer to the discrepancy between responding elicited by the original cue and the novel cue as a generalization decrement. Two experiments used a contingency learning task with human participants to compare the size of a generalization decrement between configurations of cues that were altered by adding or subtracting compositional elements. The results suggest that adding elements to a configuration can produce a generalization decrement, but removing elements produces a more robust generalization decrement. Furthermore, the generalization decrement caused by adding elements was not likely to be caused by competing orienting responses. The results are used to contrast Pearce's (1987, 1994) and Wagner's (2003) models of stimulus generalization.