Article

Blocking of subsequent and antecedent events

Abstract

Stimulus competition (e.g., blocking) has been observed between antecedent events (i.e., conditioned stimuli or potential causes), but recent evidence within the human causal learning literature suggests that it could also be obtained between subsequent events (i.e., unconditioned stimuli or potential effects). The present research tested this hypothesis with rat subjects. To avoid confounding the antecedent versus subsequent variable with the affective value of the events involved (i.e., unconditioned stimuli are ordinarily of greater affective value than conditioned stimuli), a preparation was used in which antecedent and subsequent events all lacked affective value during the blocking phases of the study. This was achieved through the use of sensory preconditioning. Blocking of subsequent events as well as antecedent events was observed. The challenge to most associative theories that is provided by blocking of subsequent events is discussed.
... Notably, the prominence of learning models designed specifically to account for overshadowing and blocking (e.g., Rescorla & Wagner, 1972) led investigators to focus their research primarily on competition between cues. Nevertheless, decrements in responding produced by competition between outcomes (see Cell 2 of Figure 1) have been reported (Esmoriz-Arranz, Miller, & Matute, 1997;Miller & Matute, 1998;Rescorla, 1980) and challenge models based on total error reduction such as that of Rescorla and Wagner. To date, few associative models of learning have been designed to account for outcome competition (but see Stout & Miller, 2007). ...
... Additional parallels between cue and outcome interference are described in Escobar, Arcediano, and Miller (2001) and Escobar, Matute, and Miller (2001). Similarly, a number of parallels between cue and outcome competition have been noted (e.g., Esmoris-Arranz, et al., 1997). Comparisons between interference and competition have been far scarcer. ...
... The present findings, together with previous reports of analogies between Cell 1 and Cell 3 of the matrix presented in Figure 1, suggest that the mechanisms governing the decrement in behavioral control that is observed when an interfering or competing association is formed (or strengthened as in Experiment 2), as well as the mechanisms involved in the recovery from interference or competition when the interacting association is weakened or rendered less effective (as in Experiment 1), have more in common than originally thought. Furthermore, in conjunction with reports that compare other cells of the matrix (e.g., Amundson et al., 2003;Burger et al., 2000;Escobar, Arcediano, et al., 2001;Escobar, Matute, et al., 2001;Esmoris-Arranz et al., 1997;Lipatova, Wheeler, Vadillo, & Miller, 2006;Luque et al., 2010;Matute, Arcediano, & Miller, 1996;Miguez, Cham, et al, 2012;Wheeler & Miller, 2005), the growing body of research seems to strongly suggest that a least some principles span across all four types of stimuli interactions depicted in Figure 1. ...
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Two fear-conditioning experiments with rats assessed whether retrospective revaluation, which has been observed in cue competition (i.e., when compounded cues are followed with an outcome), can also be observed in retroactive cue interference (i.e., when different cues are reinforced in separate phases with the same outcome). Experiment 1 found that after inducing retroactive cue interference (i.e., X-outcome followed by A-outcome), nonreinforced presentations of the interfering cue (A) decreases interference with responding to the target cue (X), just as has been observed in retrospective revaluation experiments in cue competition. Using the opposite manipulation (i.e., adding reinforced presentations of A), Experiment 2 demonstrated that after inducing retroactive cue interference, additional reinforced presentations of the interfering cue (A) increases interference with responding to the target cue (X); alternatively stated, the amount of interference increases with the amount of training with the interfering cue. Thus, both types of retrospective revaluation occur in retroactive cue competition. The results are discussed in terms of the possibility that similar associative mechanisms underlie cue competition and cue interference.
... If one of the cues acquires strong associative strength, then responding to the other cue will be impaired (e.g., Mackintosh, 1975;Miller & Matzel, 1988;Pearce & Hall, 1980;Rescorla & Wagner, 1972). These cue competition effects have been observed in many animal conditioning experiments (e.g., Esmorís-Arranz, Miller, & Matute, 1997;Kamin, 1968) as well as in many human experiments (e.g., Baker et al., 1993;Beesley & Le Pelley, 2011;Morís, Cobos, Luque, & López, 2014;Shanks & Dickinson, 1987;. ...
Article
Many experiments have shown that humans and other animals can detect contingency between events accurately. This learning is used to make predictions and to infer causal relationships, both of which are critical for survival. Under certain conditions, however, people tend to overestimate a null contingency. We argue that a successful theory of contingency learning should explain both results. The main purpose of the present review is to assess whether cue-outcome associations might provide the common underlying mechanism that would allow us to explain both accurate and biased contingency learning. In addition, we discuss whether associations can also account for causal learning. After providing a brief description on both accurate and biased contingency judgments, we elaborate on the main predictions of associative models and describe some supporting evidence. Then, we discuss a number of findings in the literature that, although conducted with a different purpose and in different areas of research, can also be regarded as supportive of the associative framework. Finally, we discuss some problems with the associative view and discuss some alternative proposals as well as some of the areas of current debate. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
... This relative change could then be directly compared between designs to determine which procedure was more sensitive. Moreover, the design tested taste and place conditioning in the same animals which may have reduced the likelihood that place conditioning would occur as a result of masking or blocking of place conditioning (Revusky, 1971;Lett, 1989;Esmoris-Arranz et al., 1997; though see King and Riley, 2013; for a review of blocking see Kamin, 1969). That is, an animal that consumes saccharin followed by an injection of LiCl may rapidly form a strong association between the taste of saccharin and the onset of illness. ...
... Recent cue-competition experiments with both human (e.g., Matute, Arcediano, & Miller, 1996;Wasserman & Berglan, 1998) and animal subjects (e.g., Denniston, Miller, & Matute, 1996;Esmoris-Arranz, Miller, & Matute, 1997;; see also Miller, Barnet, & Grahame, 1995 for an overview) also obtained results for which the Rescorla-Wagner model offers no explanation. These experiments provide evidence for cue-competition between subsequent events and backward blocking. ...
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The impairment in responding to a secondly trained association because of the prior training of another (i.e., proactive interference) is a well-established effect in human and animal research, and it has been demonstrated in many paradigms. However, learning theories have been concerned with proactive interference only when the competing stimuli have been presented in compound at some moment of the training phase. In this experiment we investigated the possibility of proactive interference between elementally-trained stimuli at the acquisition and at the retrieval stages in a behav-ioral task with humans. After training a cue-outcome association we observed retardation in the acquisition of an association between another cue and the same outcome. Moreover, after asymptotic acquisition of the secondly trained association, impairment of retrieval of this secondly trained association was also observed. This finding of proactive interference between elementally-trained cues suggests that interference in predictive learning and other traditional interference effects could be integrated into a common framework.
Article
Melz, Cheng, Holyoak, and Waldmann (1993) argue that the partial blocking of cue A that I reported (Shanks, 1991a) when subjects were presented with intermixed AB → 1, B → 1 category learning trials is not consistent with the associative Rescorla and Wagner (1972) theory analysis that I offered, given that the theory predicts complete blocking at asymptote. However, this claim assumes that subjects' were trained to asymptote in my experiments, and there is no reason to believe this was the case. Melz et al.'s further argument that there has been no reported evidence of complete blocking in associative learning tasks is incorrect. I show that, on the contrary, there is abundant evidence of it. The Rescorla and Wagner theory analysis of my results is therefore sound. The results I reported were inconsistent with contingency theories as they are normally formulated. Melz et al. propose a revised contingency theory which, they argue, can account for data from a range of learning tasks. In particular, Melz et al. claim that their theory can accommodate my results. I show that the theory can be refuted on the following grounds: (a) It is contradicted by a wealth of data from other associative learning experiments, (b) it does not in fact account for the data I obtained, and (c) for many situations in which the Rescorla and Wagner theory makes clear testable predictions, the revised contingency theory is either undefined and hence makes no predictions, or else has so many degrees of freedom that it can essentially predict any result that might be obtained.
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In the first experiment subjects were presented with a number of sets of trials on each of which they could perform a particular action and observe the occurrence of an outcome in the context of a video game. The contingency between the action and outcome was varied across the different sets of trials. When required to judge the effectiveness of the action in controlling the outcome during a set of trials, subjects assigned positive ratings for a positive contingency and negative ratings for a negative contingency. Furthermore, the magnitude of the ratings was related systematically to the strength of the actual contingency. With a fixed probability of an outcome given the action, judgements of positive contingencies decreased as the likelihood that the outcome would occur without the action was raised. Correspondingly, the absolute value of ratings of negative contingencies was increased both by an increment in the probability of the outcome in the absence of the action and by a decrement in the probability of the outcome following the action. A systematic bias was observed, however, in that positive judgements were given under a non-contingent relationship when the outcome frequency was relatively high. However, this bias could be reduced by giving extended exposure to the non-contingent schedule (Experiment 2). This pattern of contingency judgements can be explained if it is assumed that a process of selective attribution operates, whereby people are less likely to attribute an outcome to some potential target cause if another effective cause is present. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrated the operation of this process by showing that initially establishing another agent as an effective cause of the outcome subsequently reduced or blocked the extent to which the subjects attributed the outcome to the action. Finally, we argue that the pattern and bias in contingency judgements based upon interactions with a causal process can be explained in terms of contemporary conditioning models of associative learning.
Article
Despite the many demonstrations of blocking in animals, there is still little evidence of blocking with human subjects, which is problematic for general learning and behavior theory. The purpose of this research was to examine blocking with human subjects using a design and behavioral procedure (conditioned suppression) similar to those commonly used in animal research. First, subjects learned an operant task. Later, they were instructed to suppress responding when a visual US was presented. Two Pavlovian acquisition phases and a test phase occurred while the subjects were performing the operant task. In the first Pavlovian phase, CS A predicted the US for the experimental group, but was uncorrelated with the US for the control group. In the second Pavlovian phase, a compound CS AX predicted the US for both groups. At test, CS X was presented to all subjects and suppression ratios were assessed. Experimental subjects suppressed responding in the presence of CS X less than did control subjects, thereby demonstrating a blocking effect. This research, in demonstrating blocking in humans, adds to the known similarities in animal and human behavior.
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Many researchers have noted the similarities between causal judgment in humans and Pavlovian conditioning in animals. One recently noted discrepancy between these two forms of learning is the absence of backward blocking in animals, in contrast with its occurrence in human causality judgment. Here we report two experiments that investigated the role of biological significance in backward blocking as a potential explanation of this discrepancy. With rats as subjects, we used sensory preconditioning and second-order conditioning procedures, which allowed the to-be-blocked cue to retain low biological significance during training for some animals, but not for others. Backward blocking was observed only when the tar get cue was of low biological significance during training. These results suggest that the apparent discrepancy between human causal judgment and animal Pavlovian conditioning arises not because of a species difference, but because human causality studies ordinarily use stimuli of low biological significance, whereas animal Pavlovian studies ordinarily use stimuli of high biological significance, which are apparently protected against cue competition.
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An attempt was made to demonstrate Sensory Pre-conditioning (SPC) using a backward procedure under conditions optimal for the emergence of such effects. It was considered possible that the failure to meet 2 requirements specifying these optimal conditions may have resulted in the observed ineffectiveness of the backward procedure in previous studies of SPC. However, in spite of certain procedural modifications, only forward SPC was obtained. Thus the effectiveness of the backward procedure remains doubtful and backward SPC has still to be demonstrated.
Article
E. R. Melz et al (see record 1994-24205-001) argue that the partial blocking of cue A that was previously reported (D. R. Shanks; see record 1991-26433-001) when Ss were presented with intermixed AB → 1, B → 1 category learning trials is not consistent with the associative Rescorla-Wagner (R-W; 1972) theory analysis that was offered, given that the theory predicts complete blocking at asymptote. However, this claim assumes that Ss were trained to asymptote in these experiments, and there is no reason to believe this was the case. Melz et al further argue that there has been no reported evidence of complete blocking in associative learning tasks, which is incorrect. It is shown that, on the contrary, there is abundant evidence of it. The R-W theory analysis of the results is therefore sound. The results reported were inconsistent with contingency theories as they are normally formulated. Melz et al propose a revised contingency theory which, they argue, can account for data from a range of learning tasks. In particular, they claim that their theory can accommodate the results. It is shown that the theory can be refuted… (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
This study examined how people detect and assess the strength of contingent relationships between pairs of events. Some researchers have suggested that contingency learning is analogous to classical conditioning and that contingency judgment is based on psychological associations formed during learning. Others have rejected the associative account in favor of a rule-based account involving higher level statistical and causal reasoning. The results of 4 experiments in which college-student participants performed a simulated medical-judgment task, showed that the rule-based account does not provide a sufficient explanation of cue-interaction effects in contingency learning and judgment. Elements of the associative account are needed to explain the entire range of contingency judgment phenomena. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
A study by Hoffeld, Thompson, and Brogden showed variation in magnitude of sensory preconditioning in cats as a function of stimuli time relations during preconditioning. The present experiment is a replication of this previous study with changes in several of the independent variables. Essentially, the findings are in agreement with the earlier study. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)