Jan De Houwer

Jan De Houwer
Ghent University | UGhent · Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology

PhD

About

474
Publications
350,324
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Introduction
My research focusses on how spontaneous likes and dislikes (implicit evaluations) can be learned and measured. With regard to learning, I focus on the effects of stimulus pairings. With regard to measurement, I focus on reaction time measures of implicit evaluations. Other interests include learning via instruction and meta-theoretical issues such as the relation between functional (i.e., Skinnerian) and cognitive psychology.
Additional affiliations
October 2001 - present
Ghent University
Position
  • Professor (Full)
October 1998 - September 2001
University of Southampton
October 1991 - September 1998
KU Leuven

Publications

Publications (474)
Book
Full-text available
Open access pdf of book (free) available at: www.psychologyoflearning.be xxxxxxxxxxxxxx Paper copies for sale at https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/psychology-learning xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Book synopsis xxxxxxxxxxxxxx Learning unites all living creatures, from simple microbes to complex human beings. But what exactly is learning? And how does it work?...
Article
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People often keep engaging in behaviors that used to be successful in the past but which are knowingly no longer effective in the current situation, so called action slips. Such action slips are often explained with stimulus-driven processes in which behavior is caused by a stimulus- response association and without information about the outcome of...
Article
In this commentary, we note our agreement with many of the statements made by Gawronski et al. (this issue), in particular the idea that implicit bias (IB) is a behavioral phenomenon that can be observed both in the laboratory (e.g., bias in implicit measures; BIM) as well as outside of the laboratory. We also discuss two points of disagreement. Fi...
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Learning is a central concept in many scientific disciplines. Communication about research on learning is, however, hampered by the fact that different researchers define learning in different ways. In this paper, we introduce the extended functional definition of learning that can be used across scientific disciplines. We provide examples of how t...
Preprint
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Research often focuses on one of two ways in which evaluative responses can be established or changed: the effects of persuasive messages and the effects of environmental regularities. While the former depend on the symbolic meaning of words and sentences, the latter are often seen as non-symbolic (i.e., the change in liking is assumed to be driven...
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Background and aims Social media use can sometimes become excessive and damaging. To deal with this issue, scholars and practitioners have called for the development of measures that predict social media use. The current studies test the utility of evaluation and self-identification measures for predicting social media use. Method Study 1 examined...
Preprint
Fear learning allows us to identify and anticipate aversive events, and adapt our behavior accordingly. This is often thought to rely on associative learning mechanisms where an initially neutral conditioned stimulus (CS) is repeatedly paired with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US), eventually leading to the CS also being perceived as aversive...
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Our behaviour toward stimuli can be influenced by observing how another person (a model) interacts with those stimuli. We investigated whether mere instructions about a model’s interactions with stimuli (i.e., instructions about observations) are sufficient to alter evaluative and fear responses and whether these changes are similar in magnitude to...
Article
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Some learning psychologists refer to relational cues (Crels) and functional cues (Cfuncs) in their analyses of verbal behavior. However, past research about Crels and Cfuncs is limited in two ways. First, there has been relatively little research into how Crels and Cfunc functions can be acquired, and whether such acquisition is similar to the acqu...
Article
Humans excel in instruction following to boost performance in unfamiliar situations. We can do so through so-called prepared reflexes: Abstract instructions are instantly translated into appropriate task rules in procedural working memory, after which imperative stimuli directly trigger their corresponding responses in a ballistic, reflex-like mann...
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Social learning represents an important avenue via which evaluations can be formed or changed. Rather than learn slowly through trial and error, we can instead observe how another person (a “model”) interacts with stimuli and quickly adjust our own behaviour. We report five studies (n = 912) that focused on one subtype of social learning, observati...
Article
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Evaluative Conditioning (EC) effect is a change in evaluative responding to a neutral stimulus (CS) due to its pairing with a valenced stimulus (US). Traditionally, EC effects are viewed as fundamentally different from persuasion effects. Inspired by a propositional perspective to EC, four studies (N = 1,284) tested if, like persuasion effects, EC...
Preprint
Evaluative Conditioning (EC) effect is a change in evaluative responding to a neutral stimulus (CS) due to its pairing with a valenced stimulus (US). Traditionally, EC effects are viewed as fundamentally different from per-suasion effects. Inspired by a propositional perspective to EC, four studies (N = 1,284) tested if, like persuasion effects, EC...
Preprint
Full-text available
People often keep engaging in behaviors that used to be successful in the past but which are knowingly no longer effective in the current situation, so called action slips. Such action slips are often explained with stimulus-driven processes in which behavior is caused by a stimulus-response association and without information about the outcome of...
Article
Full-text available
Introduction: Drunk driving is one of the primary causes of road traffic injuries and fatalities. A possible approach to reduce drunk driving rates is to identify which individuals are at risk of such behavior and establish targeted prevention. Simply asking individuals about drunk driving in real-world contexts would be problematic because of pot...
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Objective: Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a severe problem, and its prevalence is increasing. To aid prevention and treatment, there is an urgent need for evidence-based measures to identify individuals at risk for NSSI. Measures that probe past NSSI are most promising, but people are often motivated to conceal NSSI behavior. This problem can b...
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Our ability to generate efficient behavior from novel instructions is critical for our adaptation to changing environments. Despite the absence of previous experience, novel instructed content is quickly encoded into an action-based or procedural format, facilitating automatic task processing. In the current work, we investigated the link between p...
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Research suggests that people sometimes perceive a relationship between stimuli when no such relationship exists (i.e., illusory correlation). Illusory-correlation effects are thought to play a central role in the formation of stereotypes and evaluations of minority versus majority groups, often leading to less favorable impressions of minorities....
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According to relational frame theory Cfunc stimuli select which stimulus properties are transformed via derived stimulus relations. To date there has been no demonstration of the selective action of Cfunc control. We provide an analysis of the requirements for such a demonstration, and describe the results from four experiments employing a paradigm...
Article
Little is known about why people behave the way they do in threatening situations. Some theories invoke a transfer of responses from unconditioned stimuli (US) to conditioned threat signals (CS), but this principle goes astray, because responses to the US and CS can differ substantially. The idea that we introduce here is that the pattern of respon...
Article
Attitudes are mental representations that help to explain why stimuli evoke positive or negative responses. Until recently, attitudes were often thought of as associations in memory. This idea inspired extensive research on evaluative conditioning (EC) and implicit evaluation. However, attitudes can also be seen as propositional representations, wh...
Article
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Research on automatic stereotyping is dominated by the idea that automatic stereotyping reflects the activation of (group-trait) associations. In two preregistered experiments (total N=391) we tested predictions derived from an alternative perspective that suggests that automatic stereotyping is the result of the activation of propositional represe...
Preprint
Research on automatic stereotyping is dominated by the idea that automatic stereotyping reflects the activation of (group-trait) associations. In two preregistered experiments (total N=391) we tested predictions derived from an alternative perspective that suggests that automatic stereotyping is the result of the activation of propositional represe...
Preprint
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Research shows that genetic material and environment are engaged in an ongoing conversation, one that dictates both physiology and psychology. In this paper we argue that genetic material and environment are not engaged in a single conversation but rather multiple types of conversations, and offer researchers a set of conceptual tools to better und...
Article
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Cognitive psychology had a profound impact on psychopathology research. Nevertheless, the fact that cognition cannot be observed or manipulated directly complicates debates about the nature of the mental mechanisms that mediate psychopathology. This is less troublesome for psychopathology researchers who adopt an explicitly pragmatic approach that...
Article
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Despite growing awareness of the benefits of large-scale open access publishing, individual researchers seem reluctant to adopt this behavior, thereby slowing down the evolution toward a new scientific culture. We outline and apply a goal-directed framework of behavior causation to shed light on this type of behavioral reluctance and to organize an...
Article
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Automatic behavior is supposedly underlain by the unintentional retrieval of processing episodes, which are stored during the repeated overt practice of a task or activity. In the present study, we investigated whether covertly practicing a task (e.g., repeatedly imagining responding to a stimulus) also leads to the storage of processing episodes...
Article
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Evaluative conditioning is one of the most widely studied procedures for establishing and changing attitudes. The surveillance task is a highly cited evaluative-conditioning paradigm and one that is claimed to generate attitudes without awareness. The potential for evaluative-conditioning effects to occur without awareness continues to fuel concept...
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In a highly cited paper, Rescorla (1988) argued that conditioning can be thought of as involving active information seeking and causal reasoning. In this paper, I argue that the full implications of this perspective are yet to be explored. The idea of causal reasoning (a) does not fit well with the association formation models that currently domina...
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The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is the most widely used measure to assess automatic evaluations. One classic phenomenon that has been well established both using the IAT and self-report measures of liking is evaluative conditioning (EC), which refers to a change in the evaluation of a stimulus due to its pairing with another stimulus. Research...
Preprint
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Several dual-process theories of evaluative learning posit two distinct implicit (or automatic) and explicit (or controlled) evaluative learning processes. As such, one may like a person explicitly but simultaneously dislike them implicitly. Dissociations between direct measures (e.g., Likert scales), reflecting explicit evaluations, and indirect m...
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The year 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of two seminal publications that have set the foundation for an exponentially growing body of research using implicit measures: Fazio, Jackson, Dunton, and Williams's (1995) work using evaluative priming to measure racial attitudes, and Greenwald and Banaji's (1995) review of implicit social cognition resear...
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The Propositional Evaluation Paradigm (PEP; Müller and Rothermund, 2019) has recently shown promise as a relational implicit measure (i.e., an implicit measure which can specify how stimuli are related). Whereas the standard PEP measures response times, mousetracking is becoming increasingly-popular for quantifying response competition, with distin...
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One of the most effective methods of influencing what people like and dislike is to expose them to systematic patterns (or ‘regularities’) in the environment, such as the repeated presentation of a single stimulus (mere exposure), two or more stimuli (evaluative conditioning) or to relationships between stimuli and behavior (approach/avoidance). Hu...
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The present series of studies examines the causal interaction between expectancy and attention biases in spider fear. Previous studies found that a-priori expectancy does not affect attention bias toward spiders, as measured by detection of spider targets in a subsequent visual search array compared to detection of bird targets (i.e. neutral target...
Article
Under some conditions, people persist in their attempts to control their pain even when no such control is possible. Theory suggests that such pain-control attempts arise from actual pain experiences. Across three experiments we examined how (a) losing control over pain and (b) instructions concerning pain, moderate pain-control attempts. In each e...
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In press: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin Evaluative Conditioning (EC) and persuasion are important pathways for shaping evaluations. However, little is known about how these pathways interact. Two preregistered experiments (total N=1,510) examined effects of EC procedures (i.e., stimulus pairings) and EC instructions (i.e., instructions...
Preprint
Evaluative Conditioning (EC) and persuasion are important pathways for shaping evaluations. However, little is known about how these pathways interact. Two preregistered experiments (total N=1,510) examined effects of EC procedures (i.e., stimulus pairings) and EC instructions (i.e., instructions about stimulus pairings) on auto-matic and self-repo...
Article
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The Parallel Episodic Processing (PEP) model is a neural network for simulating human performance in speeded response time tasks. It learns with an exemplar-based memory store and it is capable of modelling findings from various subdomains of cognition. In this paper, we show how the PEP model can be designed to follow instructions (e.g., task rule...
Article
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Objective Implicit and explicit drinking self-identity appear to be useful in predicting alcohol-related outcomes. However, there are several different implicit and explicit measures which can be used to assess drinking self-identity. Some of these implicit measures can also capture relational information (e.g., I am a drinker, I should be a drink...
Article
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In our recent article (Schmidt, Liefooghe, & De Houwer, in press), we presented an adaptation of the Parallel Episodic Processing (PEP) model for simulating instruction following and task-switching behaviour. In this paper, we respond to five commentaries on our article: Monsell & McLaren (in press), Koch & Lavric (in press), Meiran (in press), Lon...
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Background Adherence to inaccurate rules has been viewed as a characteristic of human rule-following (i.e., the rule-based insensitivity effect; RBIE) and has been thought to be exacerbated in individuals suffering from clinical conditions. This review intended to systematically examine these claims in adult populations. Methodology We screened 14...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background. Adherence to inaccurate rules has been viewed as a characteristic of human rule-following (i.e., the rule-based insensitivity effect; RBIE) and has been thought to be exacerbated in individuals suffering from clinical conditions. This review intended to systematically examine these claims in adult populations. Methodology. We screened...
Preprint
Dalege, Borsboom, van Harreveld, and van der Maas (2018) describe a novel framework for the conceptualization of attitudes that draws on principles from statistical mechanics. A core idea in their framework is that systems are often characterized by randomness (i.e., entropy) and that there is both heuristic and predictive value in applying the ide...
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We explore the development of habitual responding within the colour-word contingency learning paradigm, in which participants respond to the colour of neutral words. Each word is most often presented in one colour. Learning is indicated by faster responses to the colour when the word is presented in the expected rather than in the unexpected colour...
Article
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Researchers study phenomena such as the mere exposure effect, evaluative conditioning, and persuasion to learn more about the way in which likes and dislikes can be formed and changed. Often these phenomena are studied in isolation. We review and integrate conceptual analyses that highlight ways to relate these different phenomena and that reveal n...
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In this paper we introduce the shared features principle which refers to the idea that, when two stimuli share one feature, people often assume that they share others features as well. This principle can be recognized in several known psychological phenomena, most of which were until now never considered to be related in this way. To illustrate the...
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Prior evidence suggests that White participants who repeatedly approach images of Black people and avoid images of White people can exhibit a reduction in implicit racial bias (Kawakami, Phills, Steele, & Dovidio, 2007). In contrast, a recent study by Van Dessel, De Houwer, Gast, and Smith (2015) showed that mere instructions to perform approach-av...
Article
For decades already, the human fear conditioning paradigm has been used to study and develop treatments for anxiety disorders. This research is guided by theoretical assumptions that, in some cases indirectly, stem from the tradition of association formation models (e.g., the Rescorla-Wagner model). We argue that one of these assumptions – fear res...
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For almost a century now, conditioning research has provided important insights in the etiology and treatment of anxiety disorders. Nevertheless, doubts were raised about whether anxiety disorders are related to conditioning. In this paper, I focus on distinguishing different claims about the relation between anxiety disorders and conditioning as w...
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Cognitively-oriented clinical psychologists sometimes think of conditioning as the formation of associations in memory. From this perspective, conditioning research is important because it reveals the conditions under which potentially pathogenic associations are formed and can be changed. In this paper, I point out that it is also possible and use...
Article
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It is often argued that people dislike situations in which there is conflict requiring cognitive control, possibly because it is effortful to resolve this conflict. In a recent study, Vermeylen, Braem, and Notebaert (2019) provided evidence for this idea in the context of task switching. They observed that participants evaluated cues signaling a ta...
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The core message of this paper is that many of the challenges of habit research can be traced back to the presence of causal elements within the definition of habits. For instance, the idea that habits are stimulus-driven implies that habitual behavior is not causally mediated by goal-representations. The presence of these causal elements in the de...
Article
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Various phenomena such as halo effects, spontaneous trait inferences, and evaluative conditioning have in common that assumptions about object features (e.g., whether a person is intelligent or likeable) are influenced by other object features (e.g., whether that person is attractive or co-occurs with other liked persons). Surprisingly, these pheno...
Article
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Implicit bias is often viewed as a hidden force inside people that makes them perform inappropriate actions. This perspective can induce resistance against the idea that people are implicitly biased and complicates research on implicit bias. I put forward an alternative perspective that views implicit bias as a behavioral phenomenon. more specifica...
Article
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The idea that attitudes are associations in memory has been highly influential. We highlight an alternative perspective according to which stimulus evaluation is mediated by propositional representations. Unlike simple associations, which are merely links between nodes via which activation can spread, propositional representations are units of info...
Article
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In Schmidt and De Houwer (2012b), we reported a series of experiments investigating evaluative conditioning within a variant of the colour-word contingency learning paradigm. In our Experiment 2, in addition to our main analyses on response time, error rate, and explicit rating data, we also included analyses with measures of subjective awareness,...
Article
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An increasing body of evidence shows the importance of accommodating relational information within implicit measures of psychological constructs. Whereas relational variants of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) have been proposed in the past, we put forward the Truth Misattribution Procedure (TMP) as a relational variant of the Affect Misattribut...
Article
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We sometimes evaluate our environment (e.g., persons, objects, or situations) in an automatic fashion. These automatic or implicit evaluations are often considered to be based on qualitatively distinct mental processes compared to more controlled or explicit evaluations. Important evidence for this claim comes from studies showing that implicit eva...
Article
Amodio [1] argues that social cognition research has for many decades relied on imprecise dual-process models that build on questionable assumptions about how people learn and represent information. He presents an alternative framework for explaining social behavior as the product of multiple dissociable memory systems, based on the idea that cogni...
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Automaticity can be established by consistently reinforcing contingencies during practice. During reinforcement learning, however, new relations can also be derived, which were never directly reinforced. For instance, reinforcing the overlapping contingencies A -> B and A -> C, can lead to a new relation B-C, which was never directly reinforced. Ac...
Article
Full-text available
Automaticity can be established by consistently reinforcing contingencies during practice. During reinforcement learning, however, new relations can also be derived, which were never directly reinforced. For instance, reinforcing the overlapping contingencies A  B and A  C, can lead to a new relation B-C, which was never directly reinforced. Acro...
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It is generally assumed that relational knowledge is the foundation of higher cognition such as (analogical and conditional) reasoning, language, the use of relational categories, and planning. Dual-system models (e.g., Kahneman, 2011) that divide the realm of cognition into two systems with opposing properties (e.g., fast vs. slow, intentional vs....
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Previous research has shown that the presentation of valenced information about a target stimulus sometimes has different effects on implicit and explicit stimulus evaluations. Importantly, however, research examining the moderators of implicit-explicit dissociations has often failed to account for differences in the properties of the instruments u...
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Overshadowing and blocking are two important findings that are frequently used to constrain models of associative learning. Overshadowing is the finding that learning about a cue (referred to as X) is reduced when that cue is always accompanied by a second cue (referred to as A) during the learning phase (AX). Blocking is the finding that after lea...