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Abstract

A review of the literature suggests that attention, specifically attention to the contexts, also plays a relevant role on information retrieval. It also shows that attention to the contexts is modulated by the ambiguity of the situation, and the informative value contexts have. The virtues and limitations of different attentional theories of learning applied to the explanation of the effects of context change on retrieval of the information are discussed. This analysis uncovers the weaknesses of current research on context processing that should be corrected by future research: The need of independent measures of attention to the contexts, the evaluation of the mechanisms of contextual control, and the possibility of taking an evolutionary perspective on the effects of context change.
InternatIonal Journal of
Psychology & PsychologIcal
theraPy
edItor
Miguel Rodríguez Valverde
Universidad de Jaén, España
revIewIng edItors
Mónica Hernández López Francisco Ruiz Jiménez
Universidad de Jaén Fundación Universitaria Konrad Lorenz
España Colombia
assocIate edItors
Dermot Barnes-Holmes J. Francisco Morales Mauricio Papini
Universiteit Gent UNED-Madrid Christian Texas University
Belgium España USA
Miguel Ángel Vallejo Pareja Kelly Wilson
UNED-Madrid University of Mississipi
España USA
assIstant edItors
Adolfo J. Cangas Díaz Universidad de Almería, España
Emilio Moreno San Pedro Universidad de Huelva, España
ManagIng edItor
Francisco J. Molina Cobos Universidad de Almería, España
edItorIal offIce/secretaría de edIcIón
Adrián Barbero Rubio
Universidad de Almería, España
http://www.ijpsy.com
2017 Volume 17, number 1
2017 Volumen 17, número 1 ISSN: 1577-7057
InternatIonal Journal of Psychology & PsychologIcal theraPy
2017, 17, 1
Volume 17, number 1, 2017 http://www.ijpsy.com Volumen 17, número 1, 2017
Serie: Mindfulness in Clinical Psychology, I
Serie: Mindfulness en Psicología Clínica, I
Jens C. Thimm 3-17 Relationships between Early Maladaptive Schemas,
Mindfulness, Self-compassion, and
Psychological Distress.
Anissia Brown 19-37 Mindfulness for Neuropathic Pain: A Case Study.
Rodrigo Becerra
Héctor Enríquez 39-48 Impact of the Mindful Emotional Intelligence Program
Natalia Ramos on Emotional Regulation in College Student.
Oscar Esparza
Miguel Quintana 49-56 Mindfulness, personalidad y sugestionalibilidad:
Héctor González Ordi estudio correlacional exploratorio. [Mindfulness,
Rafael Jódar Anchía Personality and Suggestibility: A Correlational Study.]
Luis Manuel Blanco Donoso 57-73 Intervención breve basada en ACT y mindfulness:
Carlos García Rubio estudio piloto con profesionales de Enfermería en UCI
Bernardo Moreno Jiménez y Urgencias. [Brief Intervention Based on ACT and
María Luisa R. de la Pinta Mindfulness: Pilot Study with Nursing Staff in Intensive
Santiago Moraleda Aldea Care Unit and Emergency Services.]
Eva Garrosa Hernández
Research Articles // Artículos de investigación
Raquel Úbeda 77-86 Forma abreviada de la WAIS-IV: estudio piloto en
Pilar Tomás pacientes con esquizofrenia. [WAIS-IV Short Form:
Carmen Dasí A Pilot Study with Schizophrenia Patients.]
Juan Carlos Ruiz
Inmaculada Fuentes
Bartolomé Marín Romero 87-95 Variables relacionadas con el éxito en el autoabandono
Jesús Gil Roales-Nieto del tabaquismo. [Variables Related to Success in
Emilio Moreno San Pedro Smoking Self-quitting.]
Francisco J. Ruiz 97-105 The Hierarchical Factor Structure of the Spanish
Mª Belén García Martín Version of Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale -21.
Juan C. Suárez Falcón
Paula Odriozola González
Zaida Hinojo Abujas 107-118 The Formation of Equivalence Classes in Adults
Vicente Pérez Fernández without Training in Negative Relations between
Andrés García García Members of Different Classes.
Discussion and Review Articles // Artículos teóricos y de revisión
Pedro M. Ogallar 121-136 Attentional Perspectives on Context-dependence of
Manuel M. Ramos Álvarez Information Retrieval.
José A. Alcalá
María M. Moreno Fernández
Juan M. Rosas
Notes and Editorial Information // Avisos e información editorial
Editorial Ofce   139-142 Normasde publicación-Instructions to authors.
EditorialOfce  143 Coberturaeindexación. [Abstracting and Indexing.]
ISSN 1577-7057 © 2017 Asociación de Análisis del Comportamiento, España
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Editor: Miguel Rodríguez Valverde, Universidad de Jaén, España
Senior Editor: Santiago Benjumea, Universidad de Sevilla, España
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Yolanda Alonso Universidad de Almería, España
Erik Arntzen University of Oslo, Norway
Mª José Báguena Puigcerver Universidad de Valencia, España
Yvonne Barnes-Holmes National University-Maynooth, Ireland
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Juan Pedro Vargas Romero Universidad de Sevilla, España
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International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 2017, 17, 1, 121-136
Printed in Spain. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 AAC
Attentional Perspectives on Context-dependence of
Information Retrieval
Pedro M Ogallar, Manuel M Ramos Álvarez, José A Alcalá
Universidad de Jaén, España
María M Moreno Fernández
Universidad de Deusto, España
Juan M Rosas*
Universidad de Jaén, España
* Correspondence concerning this article: Juan M Rosas, Departamento de Psicología, Universidad de Jaén, 23071 Jaén,
España. Email: jmrosas@ujaen.es. Acknowledgments: This work was funded by grant PSI2014-52263-C2-1-P from the
Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad; participation of JA Alcalá and P Ogallar was funded by grants FPU13/03761
from the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deportes, and BES-2015-073316 from the Ministerio de Economía y
Competitividad, respectively.
AbstrAct
Attention has been traditionally understood as an important factor on acquiring new information.
A review of the literature suggests that attention, specically attention to the contexts, also plays a
relevant role on information retrieval. It also shows that attention to the contexts is modulated by the
ambiguity of the situation, and the informative value contexts have. The virtues and limitations of
different attentional theories of learning applied to the explanation of the effects of context change
on retrieval of the information are discussed. This analysis uncovers the weaknesses of current
research on context processing that should be corrected by future research: The need of independent
measures of attention to the contexts, the evaluation of the mechanisms of contextual control, and
the possibility of taking an evolutionary perspective on the effects of context change.
Key words: attention, context processing, contextual control, information retrieval, learning, memory.
How to cite this paper: Ogallar PM, Ramos-Álvarez M, Alcalá JA, Moreno-Fernández MM, & Rosas
JM (2017). Attentional Perspectives on Context-dependence of Information Retrieval. International
Journal of Psychology & Psychological Therapy, 17, 115-130.
The interpretation that we make of situations of daily life is often determined
by the context in which we nd ourselves. For instance, the meaning we attribute to
the word “cell” will be different in the biology class and in a mobile phone store. The
study of the conditions and mechanisms through which contextual information inuences
behavior has generated a large number of experimental works during the last decades.
In many of those studies the role of context has been found to be especially relevant
Novelty and Signicance
What is already known about the topic?
Retrieval of second-learned information about a cue is more affected by context changes than rst-learned
information about the same cue.
Differential attention to the contexts seems to be at the base of this asymmetrical effect of context change.
What this paper adds?
Revises the evidence suggesting that the key factor on context-dependence of information retrieval is
not whether the information is learned rst or second, but whether the context is attended or not when the
information is learned.
Establishes ambiguity of the situation and context relevance as the main factors that modulate attention to the
contexts.
Uncovers the search of independent measures of attention to the contexts, the evaluation of the mechanisms of
contextual control in different animal species as the future challenges researchers in this topic will have to face.
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in situations involving interference, that is, in situations in which we have to deal with
conicting information (for a review see Bouton, 1993; Rosas, Tood & Bouton, 2013).
Let’s take the study conducted by Paredes Olay and Rosas (1999, Experiment 2)
as an example. These authors explored the role of context on performance in a human
predictive judgments task. Participants were to take on the role of a medical inspector
who evaluated reports of patients treated in two different imaginary hospitals. In a rst
phase participants learned that treatment X used in hospital A made all patients sick,
whereas treatment Y used in hospital B was totally safe. In a second phase, participants
received treatment X in hospital B, and treatment Y in hospital A, both without outcomes.
Both treatments changed the context where they were administered and treatment X
had no longer effects. That is, treatment X received an extinction treatment. Changing
the context before extinction had no effect on participants’ performance: At the start
of the phase, expectations that drug X would produce the disease remained high in
hospital B while expectations that the disease appeared when the patient had ingested
medication Y remained low in hospital A. As training progressed predictive judgments to
treatment X gradually decreased until matching trials to treatment Y, both close to zero
in the predictive judgments scale. In the nal test, participants were asked to evaluate
the probability that X could cause the disease in each hospital. Estimates depended on
the hospital in which X was administered: Higher when X was presented in hospital A
(where X had originally been paired with the outcome) than when it was presented in
hospital B where the relationship between X and the outcome had been extinguished.
This recovery of the extinguished response with the change of context is known
as the renewal effect and has been extensively studied in both animals and humans
in the last three decades (see, among others, Bouton & Bolles, 1979, Rosas, García
Gutiérrez, & Callejas Aguilera, 2007, Rosas, Vila, Lugo, & López, 2001). Studies have
shown that the basic factor that determines the renewal effect is whether the interference
treatment takes place in a context other than the context in which the test is performed,
regardless of whether the test context is the one in which the acquisition took place
(e.g., Bouton & Bolles, 1979; Rosas et al., 2001) or a different but equally familiar
one (Bouton & Ricker 1994; Bouton & Swartzentruber, 1986, Tamai & Nakajima 2000;
Thomas, Larsen, & Ayres, 2003).
The most complete explanation of the renewal effect was provided by Bouton
(1993, 1994) in his theory of interference and information retrieval. This theory holds
that the memory is formed by nodes that represent events of the world and that relate to
each other in an excitatory or inhibitory way, so that the activation of one node excites
or inhibits the activation of related nodes. Phenomena such as spontaneous recovery
(Pavlov, 1927), reinstatement (Rescorla & Heth, 1975), or the effect of renewal at hand
reveal that, once established, these relationships remain available until their recovery
becomes necessary, so that sometimes the same stimulus may keep at the same time
an excitatory and an inhibitory relationship with the same outcome. In Paredes Olay
and Rosas’s (1999) experiment, X may produce the disease or not, depending on where
it was administered. The information retrieval theory suggests that the context plays a
modulating role in those situations, determining which information will be retrieved at a
given time. To be clear, this theory suggests that retrieval of the information learned rst
will not be context-dependent, whereas retrieval of the conicting information learned
second (about extinction or interference) will depend on the test taking place in the
context where such conicting information was learned. In the experiment reported by
Paredes Olay and Rosas (1999) changing the context after acquisition had no effect on
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performance. However, once the information became ambiguous (X produced the disease
and X did not produce the disease), the second information learned is only recovered
when the test is conducted in the same context in which it was learned, but not when
it is conducted in a different context (see Nelson, 2002).
This explanation of the renewal effect by the theory of information retrieval
comes up against three main shortcomings. The rst one stems from the fact that the
theory is limited to narrow understanding of the renewal effect, leaving unexplained the
role that contexts may play in other situations such as simple acquisition. The theory
denes renewal as the information recovery that is produced by the context change
after extinction, and that cannot be explained by direct context-outcome associations,
regardless of whether these are excitatory or inhibitory (e.g., Nelson, Sanjuan, Vadillo
Ruiz, Pérez, & León, 2011). With this assumption, the theory is self-limiting, leaving
out all those situations in which the context plays a role on performance through direct
associations with the outcome (e.g., León, Abad, & Rosas, 2011; León, Callejas Aguilera,
& Rosas, 2012), as well as those situations in which context-switches affect retrieval of
information that has not undergone extinction or any other form of interference (e.g.,
Hall & Honey 1990; Rosas & Callejas Aguilera, 2006; Sjödén & Archer, 1989).
The second shortcoming arises from the evaluation of one of its unique assumptions.
The theory holds that the essential factor in the renewal situation is leaving the context
where interference occurs, regardless of whether this departure takes the organism to
the same context where acquisition occurred or not. Thus, the theory expects the same
results when the test is conducted in the original context of training than when the
test takes place in a new context. However, the renewal effect has been found to be
stronger when the design involves a return to the acquisition context during the test
(ABA design, where the letters represent the contexts where the acquisition, extinction
and test take place) than when the design involves only leaving the extinction context
(AAB and ABC renewal designs; Harris, Jones, Bailey, & Westbrook, 2000; Nakajima,
Tanaka, Urushihara, & Imada, 2000; Rosas, et al., 2007; Tamai & Nakajima, 2000;
Thomas et al., 2003; see also García Gutiérrez, Rosas, & Nelson, 2005).
The third shortcoming of the theory comes from its low explanatory power.
Pointing out that the second information learned is context-dependent is not an actual
explanation of why information becomes context dependent, but a description of the
result most commonly obtained in the literature. The rst attempt to break this circle
is presented in the concluding comments of a chapter published by Bouton (1997)
in which he states that interfering information becomes context dependent because it
makes the cue ambiguous (i.e., the outcome announces the presence and the absence of
the outcome). This ambiguity leads the organism to pay attention to the context where
the information is presented in an attempt to disambiguate the situation. Conicting
information is then processed with the context where it is learned, and its retrieval
becomes context-dependent. Leaving aside for now that this solution only applies to
those situations in which the context change affects the interfering information, this
approach highlights the role of attention as an explanatory factor of the effects of
contextual change on information retrieval (see also Nelson, 2002; Darby & Pearce,
1995). In the following section, we will briey present how main attentional theories
of associative learning deal with context-switch effects.
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AttentionAl theories of AssociAtive leArning
In the last four decades, the study of the relationship between associative learning
and attention has been dominated by two theories: Mackintosh’s (1975a), which holds
that attention to a given stimulus is directly related to its predictive power; and Pearce
and Hall’s (1980), which holds just the opposite, that there is an inverse relationship
between the attention a stimulus receives and its predictive power. Although they are
by no means the only theoretical approaches in the literature, they capture the essential
roles attention plays in associative learning, and are at the base of other, more complex
approaches whose discussion would surpass the goals of this review.
The Attentional Theory of Mackintosh (1975a)
This theory starts with the simple assumption that what is learned about a particular
stimulus depends on the attention it receives, assuming that attention is greater the
better predictor of its consequences the stimulus is (see the background of this model in
Krechevsky, 1932; Sutherland & Mackintosh, 1971). Using a conditioning situation as an
example, the greater the correlation between the stimulus and the outcome, the greater the
attention the stimulus will receive. As the processing capacity of the attentional system
is limited, the model also assumes that the attention received by any cue is inversely
proportional to the attention received by the other cues present in the situation, so
that those stimuli that are relatively good predictors of their consequences will receive
progressively more attention; whereas those that are not, will be progressively ignored.
In general terms, this model emphasizes the role of stimulus processing, assuming that
the attentional changes that occur throughout the learning process are responsible for
the nal result. The Mackintosh model has received great empirical support, and it is
especially successful in uniquely accounting for phenomena related to the competition
between predictive cues (i.e., blocking), one of the cornerstones of theoretical development
in the eld of associative learning. Blocking is observed when, after pairing a given
conditioned stimulus (CS, i.e., a noise) with an unconditioned stimulus (US, i.e., a brief
electric shock on the legs of a rat), we present a stimulus compound in which the original
CS is presented together with a new CS (i.e., a noise-light compound) followed by the
same unconditioned stimulus originally used. When we later evaluate the response of fear
to the added CS (the light in the example) we nd that the conditioned response (CR)
is lower in this situation than in another one in which the noise-light compound is not
preceded by the separated training of any of its elements. Thus, previous training with
one of the stimuli in the compound blocks the learning about the relationship between
the added element and the US (Kamin, 1969).
Mackintosh’s theory (1975a) aptly predicts that blocking will not appear during
the rst compound training trial (Mackintosh, 1975b), as well as the increase in the CR
when US value is reduced between the element training phase and the training phase
with the compound (Dickinson, Hall, & Mackintosh, 1976; c.f., Rescorla & Wagner,
1972). The logic underlying these two predictions is simple and intuitive. The model
holds that learning about a stimulus depends on the level of processing that it receives,
identifying its associability with the attention that the stimulus receives. In other words,
the capacity of a given stimulus to enter in association with other will depend on the
attention it receives. The explanation for blocking arises from the fact that the stimulus
added during the training phase of the compound is a worse predictor of the outcome
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than the stimulus originally trained, so it will be quickly discarded as potential predictor
and will no longer receive attention. However, in a typical conditioning trial in which the
CS slightly precedes the US, when the compound is rst introduced the organism will
pay attention to the added stimulus given that its outcome is still unknown. The model
predicts that the added stimulus (the light in our previous example) will be processed
in the rst compound conditioning trial and, consequently, will gain predictive power by
being followed by the outcome. It will be only later, in the following trials, when the
stimulus becomes ignored due to its lower predictive value with respect to the partner
stimulus in the compound. With the same logic, the model predicts that attention to the
new stimulus will be kept high when there is a change in the value of the US between
the training phase with the element and the training phase with the compound, regardless
of the direction of the change. This phenomenon is known as unblocking and was already
predicted by the reference associative learning model Rescorla and Wagner’s (Wagner
& Rescorla, 1972). However, this latter model predicts that the new learning about the
added stimulus will correlate directly with the direction of the change in the value of the
US, increasing when the intensity of the US increases across phases and decreasing in
the opposite case, something that has not been conrmed in the literature (see Dickinson
et al., 1976). The assumption of a positive correlation between the predictive power
of stimuli and the attention they receive has been included in more recent models of
learning, such as Kruschke’s (2001, 2003), who developed a connectionist approach
of some complexity. For the situations we deal with here, Kruschke’s model presents
similar properties to the original model, so it will not be developed here further.
The Attentional Theory of Pearce and Hall (1980)
The Mackintosh model (1975a) starts from the idea that more attention is paid
to stimuli that are better predictors of their outcomes; that is, relevant stimuli will be
more attended than irrelevant stimuli. Pearce and Hall’s (1980) model makes the opposite
assumption. According to this model organisms pay attention to stimuli that are poor
predictors of their outcomes, ignoring those that are good predictors of their outcomes
which receive automatic processing. Thus, this theory shares with Mackintosh’s theory
(1975a) the idea that the attention stimuli receive changes with the experience. However,
it differs from the latter by arguing that attentional changes in the associability of stimuli
are inversely related to their predictive value.
We pointed out that Mackintosh’s theory (1975a) received empirical support; and
the same is true for the theory of Pearce and Hall (1980). In different experimental series
that sought to contrast this theory directly with Mackintosh’s theory (1975a), it was found
that learning is hampered when a good predictor of the outcome is subsequently paired
with a new (Dickinson et al., 1976) or more intense outcome (Hall & Pearce, 1979).
This result, known as Hall-Pearce negative transfer effect, suggests that the organism
stops paying attention to the stimulus once its predictive power is well established (c.f.,
Mackintosh, 1975a). In a related result, Kaye and Pearce (1984) found that conditioning
was facilitated when the target stimulus had previously undergone partial reinforcement,
thus being a poor predictor of the outcome. These results suggest that, at least in
some circumstances, there is an inverse relationship between the predictive power of a
stimulus and the attention it receives. Contrary to Mackintosh’s (1975a) prediction, in
some circumstances we learn more easily about stimuli that are bad predictors of its
outcomes, while we learn more slowly about stimuli that are good predictors of them
(Pearce & Hall, 1980).
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Hybrid Models (Le Pelley, 2004, Pearce & Mackintosh, 2010)
The experimental endorsement received by the opposite predictions of Mackintosh’
(1975a) and Pearce and Hall’ (1980) models has encouraged developing of hybrid
models integrating both approaches into a fuller explanation of the role of attention
in associative learning. Among the most relevant attempts is that of Le Pelley (2004)
who incorporates in his model two attentional parameters, one that follows the rules
established by the model of Mackintosh (1975a), and another that changes according to
the rules proposed by Pearce and Hall (1980). A similar approach has been developed
by Pearce and Mackintosh (2010). To detail both theories surpasses the goals of this
manuscript so we will limit to indicate that through different solutions both theories
coordinate within the same learning algorithm the two attentional models described
above, integrating the opposite results briey summarized above and allowing for a
more complete approximation to the role that attention plays in learning, and the role
that learning plays in the attention that stimuli receive (see also Hall & Rodríguez,
2010; Le Pelley, Mitchell, Beesley, George, & Wills, 2016).
The role of context in attentional models of associative learning
The Mackintosh model (1975a) was developed as an alternative explanation to
the associative learning explanation proposed by Rescorla and Wagner (1972), while the
Pearce and Hall (1980) model sought to be an alternative to both. Finally, the hybrid
models of Le Pelley and Pearce and Mackintosh (2010) tried to integrate the previous
models in a unied version that allows to account for the conicting results found in the
literature, and that seem to support one model discarding the other (for a recent review
in this topic see Le Pelley et al., 2016). None of these models was developed with the
goal of specically accounting for the effects of context change on information retrieval.
However, all of them may be applied to these situations. It is enough to consider that
the context is an additional stimulus within the experimental situation susceptible to the
same attentional processes that the rest of the stimuli present in the situation. Under
this assumption, the context would enter into predictive competition with the rest of the
stimuli. When this competition leads the context to gain predictive power, any subsequent
change in the context in which learning takes place would lead to a deterioration in
performance (see also Pearce, 1987, 1994, 2002; Rescorla & Wagner, 1972).
These models explain situations in which context change has a direct effect on
retrieval of information about consistent relationships between neutral stimuli and their
outcomes since they assume that the context becomes a predictor of the outcome in
such a way that, when the context changes, organisms’ response decreases in an effect
known as a generalization decrement. However, none of these models can explain the
asymmetry between the effects of context change on simple acquisition and extinction
or interference that is usually found in the renewal phenomena described above.
A possible solution to this problem is proposed by Darby and Pearce (1995).
These authors take as their starting point the congurational model of Pearce (1987,
1994, 2002). Contrary to the previous elementary models that assume that the stimuli
are independently processed, this model assumes that the organisms have a transient
sensory storage of limited capacity that is permanently full. The content of the sensory
memory at a given time would play the role of a CS as a whole, including what is
separately treated as context and target stimuli in elementary theories. Response during
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testing will depend on the similarity between the present conguration and the one that is
stored in memory as related to the outcome, that is, the proportion of elements contained
in the test conguration with respect to the originally trained conguration and with
respect to other congurations that may have been trained with the same organism. The
result of this approach with respect to the role of the context is obvious: as part of the
conguration itself, any change in the context will mean a decrease in generalization, and
in the response given by the organism to the new situation. Up to this point, Pearce’s
model (1987) presents the same problems presented by the elementary models previously
described when confronting the asymmetry of context-switch effects on acquisition and
extinction. However, Darby and Pearce (1995) implemented an attentional analysis that
allows Pearce’s model to explain many of their results involving context. Essentially,
they found that contextual specicity of a simple stimulus-outcome association appeared
when contexts were part of conditional discrimination in which the relationship between
each of two different stimuli and the outcome was reversed as a function of the context.
Darby and Pearce (1995) argue that attention to irrelevant contexts rises when contexts
become relevant to solve the learning task, with the result that they end up being part
of what the organism eventually learns and, in the end, partially control the organism
response (see also León, Abad, & Rosas, 2008, 2010a; Preston, Dickinson, & Mackintosh,
1986). Note that the same principle could be applied to all the models previously
discussed. However, once it is accepted that attention to context can be modulated by
the relevance of the context to solve the situation, the question that opens up is which
are the factors that modulate the attention organisms pay to the contexts. This is the
starting point of the Attentional Theory of Context Processing (ATCP), which we will
briey describe below (Rosas, Callejas Aguilera, Ramos Álvarez, & Abad, 2006; see also
Rosas & Callejas Aguilera, 2006; Rosas, García Gutiérrez, & Callejas Aguilera, 2006).
AttentionAl theory of context Processing
In the previous sections we have briey presented the shortcomings of Bouton’s
theory of information retrieval (1993, 1994, 1997) and the limitations of attentional
theories of associative learning (Le Pelley, 2004; Mackintosh, 1975a; Pearce & Hall,
1980, Pearce & Mackintosh, 2010) to become an integrative account for all the effects
of context change that are reported in the literature. ATCP was proposed with the goal
of overcoming these shortcomings by extending the theory of information retrieval in
a way that allows for an explanation of context-switch effects outside the extinction/
interference procedures, integrating attention and retrieval mechanisms, and suggesting
a set of factors that modulate the attention contexts receive.
ATCP maintains four essential principles. The rst two principles emanate directly
from Bouton’s theory of information retrieval (1993): It is argued that (1) there are two
main sources of forgetting, interference and context change; and that (2) learning of
interfering information only affects retrieval of the information learned rst, without
erasing it; both, interfering and interfered information are assumed to be stored in
memory, and recovery of one or the other will depend on the conditions under which the
test is performed (e.g., Anderson, 1993; Mensik & Raaijmakers, 1988). Two additional
principles are included with the goal of extending the theory to situations in which the
theory of information retrieval lacks predictive power. Contrary to the idea that context
change only affects retrieval of ambiguous information (Bouton, 1993, 1997), (3) ATCP
holds that the effects of context change depend on the attention that the organism pays
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to the context during learning, so that whenever the context is attended retrieval of
all the information learned within that attended context will become context-specic,
regardless of whether that information is excitatory, inhibitory, ambiguous, or not (c.f.,
Bouton, 1997; Darby & Pearce, 1995). Finally, (4) it is assumed that attention to the
contexts will be modulated by ambiguity (Bouton, 1997), context relevance (Darby &
Pearce, 1995), the degree of experience with the context and the task, direct instructions
in human participants, and its relative salience with respect to that of the specic cues
used in the task. In the following sections, we will briey detail the results found in
the literature with respect to each of the factors proposed by ATCP.
Ambiguity
Rosas and Callejas Aguilera, using human predictive learning (2006) and rats’
conditioned taste aversion (2007) tasks found that retrieval of all relationships learned
within a context in which a cue has been extinguished become context-dependent. Similar
results have been reported when ambiguity is generated through a latent inhibition
design in rats, in which the cue is rst presented without outcome and then conditioned
(Bernal Gamboa, Nieto, & Rosas, 2015); and when retroactive interference is used as
the treatment that generates ambiguity in humans (Rosas, García Gutiérrez et al., 2006).
More recent work has reinforced these results beyond the initial confound
between ambiguity and interference (see Nelson and Callejas Aguilera, 2007). Contextual
dependence of consistent predictors is also obtained when ambiguity is introduced
through a pseudo-discrimination procedure, suggesting that ambiguity produces a general
change in attention to the context, making context-dependent the retrieval of all the
information learned in that situation (Callejas Aguilera & Rosas, 2010; c.f., Nelson
& Callejas Aguilera, 2007). Additional evidence of extinction increasing attention to
the contexts was provided by Nelson, Lamoureux, and León (2013) when nding that
extinction enhances participants’ performance in a subsequent biconditional discrimination
in which contextual cues are relevant to solve the task. Even more, extinction seems
to affect processing of contexts in which extinction has not taken place (e.g., Rosas
& Callejas Aguilera, 2006). The most striking results on this respect were reported by
Bernal Gamboa, Rosas, and Callejas Aguilera (2014) when nding that the ambiguity
produced by extinction in one task such as running in a runway led to greater context
dependence of a different task such as taste aversion conditioning (see also Bernal
Gamboa, Callejas Aguilera, Nieto, & Rosas, 2013; Rosas & Callejas Aguilera, 2006).
Degree of experience with the context and the task
Theoretical proposals in the tradition of learning and conditioning suggest that the
organism will have difculties to separate relevant from irrelevant cues at the beginning
of training (see, for example Kruschke, 2001; Mackintosh, 1975a; Myers & Gluck,
1994; Schmajuk, Lam, & Gray, 1996). From this idea follows that contextual control
of responding will be higher at the beginning of training than when training progresses,
a prediction that has been conrmed in different human (León, Abad, & Rosas, 2010b,
2011) and animal learning experiments (Hall and Honey, 1990; León et al., 2012; but
see Bonardi, Honey, & Hall, 1990). Assuming that the context is codied in the initial
stages of learning allows ATCP to be applied to situations of contextual dependence of
simple acquisition and to advance an explanation of the differences between the ABA
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renewal design and the other renewal designs indicated above: If the acquisition context
is processed in the early stages of training, retrieval of the information learned in that
context will be higher within the acquisition context than when the renewal design
involves the mere abandonment of the interference context.
Direct instructions on human participants
Inspired by results such as those of Eich (1985) in memory tasks, it has been
found that the changes in contextual dependence with the experience encountered by
León et al. (2011) can be modulated by attentional instructions: When participants were
instructed explicitly to pay attention to the cues, the effect of context change after brief
training disappeared. Complementarily, the effect of context change that did not appear
after prolonged training emerged if participants were instructed to pay attention to the
context (Callejas Aguilera, Cubillas & Rosas, 2017; c.f. Neumann, 2007).
Informational value of the context (context relevance)
Preston et al. (1986) found in animal research that retrieval of information about
unambiguous cues shows contextual dependence whenever they are trained within contexts
that are characterized by their high informative value (see also Darby & Pearce, 1995).
Similarly, León, Abad, and Rosas (2008, 2010a) found that retrieval of relationships with
consistent predictive value that were trained in the presence of other cues that varied
their meaning depending on the context was context dependent in both, human predictive
learning and instrumental conditioning (see also, León, Gámez, & Rosas, 2012; Lucke,
Lachnit, Koening, & Uengoer, 2013; Lucke, Lachnit, Stüttgen, & Uengoer, 2014).
Salience or relative preeminence of the context with respect to the cues
ATCP assumes that contextual dependence of the information is directly related
to the salience or relative preeminence of the contexts with respect to the specic cues
involved in the task. Although this prediction has not received a direct evaluation, Abad,
Ramos Álvarez and Rosas (2009) found that partial reinforcement of a cue made context-
dependent retrieval of the information about a different cue that received continuous
reinforcement. Pearce, Redhead, and Aydin (1997) suggest that partial reinforcement
causes an internal state (N) associated with frustration (Amsel, 1958, 1992) or with a
memory tracing of non-reinforced trials (Capaldi 1967, 1994) that may increase the relative
salience of the context. The data of Abad et al. (2009) are consistent with this idea, as
they are consistent with the formation of a direct association between the context and
the outcome favored by the increase in the relative preeminence of the context because
of the partial reinforcement treatment (see also Murphy, Baker, & Fouquet, 2001).
The ve modulating factors summarized above are the ones originally set by
ATCP. However, looking at them retrospectively, these factors may be reduced to two.
Studies exploring context experience or relative salience of contexts and cues are actu-
ally manipulating the perceived ambiguity of the situation. Similarly, instructions in
human participants may be understood as a way to manipulate the subjective relevance
of the contexts. This approach would reduce to two the factors modulating attention to
the context: Ambiguity and contexts’ relevance.
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Regardless of the number of factors modulating attention to the contexts, the
literature briey summarized above suggests that ATCP has great heuristic value as a guide
to research and it seems to be closer than its predecessors to become a comprehensive
explanation of the context-switch effects on information retrieval found in the literature
(but see Nelson & Lamoureux, 2015; Nelson, Lombas, & León, 2011). It overcomes some
of the shortcomings of Bouton’s (1993) theory of information retrieval, extending its
explanation to situations that do not involve extinction, interference or even ambiguity;
and it gives a response to why the effects of the context change occur in some situations
but not in others. In addition, it keeps advantages with the general attentional theories
summarized in the previous section focusing on the factors that regulate the attention,
rather in the learning mechanisms that apply once contexts are attended. Nevertheless,
ATCP also shares some of the problems of its predecessors and relies in assumptions
that are not yet demonstrated. The goal of the next section will be to describe the most
important shortcomings of current attentional approaches to retrieval of the information.
Attention And context: exPlAnAtory limitAtions And future PersPectives
We ended the previous section by noting the advantages of ATCP, but also
advancing some of the shortcomings that this theory still has. We will conclude this
review by presenting an overview of the main limitations that attentional theories applied
to information retrieval have to solve in the years to come to reach a full understanding
of the role of contexts and attention in information retrieval.
Independent measures of attention
In the experiments that support the idea that attention plays an important role in
contextual processing, attention is inferred from changes in the dependent variable that
is supposed to be affected by it. That is, it is assumed that attention plays a relevant
role in the effect of context change because this effect appears when manipulating
factors that supposedly modulate the attention participants pay to the context. It is
assumed that an organism pays attention to the context whenever the context change
has an effect on performance; and it is assumed that the effect of the context change
is due to the organism paying attention to the context. This circularity weakens the
explanatory usefulness of the attentional construct. To conclude that attention plays
a relevant role in context processing, it will be necessary to count with a measure of
attention independent of the effect of context-switch effects that it is trying to explain.
In studies with humans there are several approaches that may be useful in
addressing this problem. Thanks to a hybrid task of predictive learning and semantic
memory, Grifths and Mitchell (2008) measured both the strength of learned associations
and cue recognition. According to the authors, the more attention a cue receives during
training the better it will be remembered/recognized in the test phase. It is feasible to
adapt the designs used in the studies on context-switch effects in humans to this task,
allowing for an independent verication of the attention received by the contexts and
whether they control information retrieval in those situations in which attention to the
contexts is assumed to play a role.
Alternatively, the online recording of participants’ eye movements would also allow
for an independent measure of attention to contexts and cues. In recent years the use
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of devices that allow online recording of the xation points of the gaze has become an
extended approach to measure attention (e.g., Hogarth, Dickinson, Janowski, Nikitina, &
Duka, 2008; Hogarth, Dickinson, Wright, Kouvaraki, & Duka, 2007). These devices are
becoming less invasive and annoying for participants, allowing for online registration
of the area to which participants are looking at any given point in the task, a variable
that has been shown to be closely related to attention (Deroost & Soetens, 2006), and
that may be used to record the attention that contexts and stimuli receive. In a recent
study, Aristizabal, Ramos Álvarez, Callejas Aguilera, and Rosas (2016) have found that
participants stop paying attention to irrelevant contexts as training progresses. Dwell
time in the context area decreased as training proceeds, reaching asymptotic values after
a few training trials. This result is consistent with the fact that context-switch effects
appear early, but not later on training (see also Aristizabal, Ramos Álvarez, Callejas
Aguilera, & Rosas, 2017; Lucke et al., 2013).
From a different perspective, some researchers have begun to apply to the study
of learning tests traditionally used in the eld of attention, such as the “dot probe
task” (Le Pelley, Vadillo, & Luque, 2013; Luque, Vadillo, Le Pelley, & Beesley, 2016).
This test records the time it takes the participant to detect and respond to a point that
can appear in any stimulus present in the task. Reaction times have traditionally been
assumed to correlate with the attention individuals pay to the stimulus (e.g., Posner,
Nissen, & Ogden, 1978). The typical result of the dot-probe task is that reaction times
are lower when the dot is allocated on a predictive stimulus that when it is presented
within a non-predictive one (see for example Le Pelley et al., 2013). This task has been
recently used to assess attentional shifts to the context, thus Vadillo, Orgaz, Luque, and
Nelson (2016) found that when the learning situation becomes ambiguous, participants’
attention moves from predictive cues to the cues that serve as context. Looking to the
future, implementing the use of this type of tasks together with the measures provided
by eye-tracking systems, will allow for furthering current knowledge about the role of
attention on learning situations, while testing the theoretical predictions proposed from
the ATCP.
Finally, the orienting response in animals has been used as an independent
measure of attention in studies with nonhuman species (e.g., Keene & Bucci, 2007;
Swan & Pearce, 1988). Although this measure may not be a very sensitive one, it
is still possible to design and validate contexts with specic features that allow for
estimating the attention received through orienting response. Thus, changes on light or
texture patterns on specic areas of Skinner boxes may be used to register orientation
responses, allowing for the assessment of the attention received by the contexts, and
the effects of the context change on animals’ attention.
Evaluation of the mechanisms of contextual control
In the case of information retrieval theory (Bouton, 1993), the hierarchical
mechanism in which the context modulates the cue-outcome relationship, circumscribes
this explanation to a particular and concrete interpretation of the effect of renewal. Models
such as Rescorla and Wagner (1972), Mackintosh (1975a) or Pearce (1987) assume that
the context is either treated as a specic stimulus that competes with target stimuli by
predicting the outcome or it is part of the stimulus conguration that is related with the
outcome as a whole, establishing in both cases a direct association with the outcome.
Both approaches allow for explaining different context-switch effects in the literature,
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and none allows for explaining all of them. Finally, ATCP is completely ambiguous
in this regard. This theory is not committed to hierarchical or direct context-outcome
mechanisms, focusing on establishing under what circumstances attention to contexts
appears or does not appear. Recent results from our laboratory seem to suggest that
this might be a more appropriate approach to the study of context-switch effects on
performance. Gámez, León and Rosas (2016) found that contexts simultaneously enter
into association with the outcome, the discriminative stimulus and the instrumental
response in a human instrumental learning situation, suggesting that future research in
contextual control should focus on determining the conditions that lead to the expression
of a specic association among the ones that are automatically established, rather than
focusing on which associations involving context are developed within the learning
situation.
An evolutionary perspective on the effects of context change
All models mentioned above take an evolutionary perspective suggesting that the
basic mechanisms of learning and retrieval of information are shared by different animal
species, including the human being. This idea is backed up by an important number
of studies in the literature. However, this literature is not exempt from controversial
results (i.e., García Gutiérrez & Rosas, 2003; against Delamater, 1997 and Ostlund &
Balleine, 2007; or Rosas & Callejas Aguilera, 2007 against Nelson et al., 2011). Since
the exploration of the attentional aspects of contextual processing in nonhuman animals
is rather scarce and has been performed within a very limited range of tasks, it remains
to be ascertained whether these differences are due to the mechanism of contextual
control that depends on the type of task used or it is due to real differences in the
contextual processing among different species. Research in the coming years will need
to explore the generalization of the effects of attentional manipulations on information
retrieval and context effects, using different species and procedures.
conclusions
A review of the literature on context-switch effects on information retrieval strongly
suggests that attention plays an important role in context processing and contextual
dependence of information. However, the conrmation of this relationship will depend
on further development of independent measures of attention to the context that would
allow for separating the attention contexts receive from the context-switch effects on
performance. From a theoretical point of view, we have found that none of the current
theories on the effects of context change can fully explain the great variety of context
change effects that appear in the literature. Part of the problem stems from the difculty
of determining which mechanism of contextual control will be in effect once participants
are paying attention to the context. Establishing the range of conditions that give rise
to direct or hierarchical associations is still pending in the literature. Finally, and in a
complementary way, it will be necessary to explore the role of attention in the contextual
processing of different species in order to be able to conclude whether a general theory
of context processing can be established. The direction that the work should take and
its guidelines seem therefore well established and these challenges should be faced from
different laboratories in the following years in order to reach a comprehensive theory
of the effects of the context change on information retrieval.
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Received, January 3, 2017
Final Acceptance, January 17, 2017
... These results set the grounds for the proposal of the attentional theory of context processing (ATCP, . ATCP suggests that information retrieval becomes context dependent in any situation in which the context is significantly attended to, regardless of whether this information is extinguished or not, firstor secondlearned (see also, Gawronski et al., 2010;Ogallar et al., 2017). ATCP considers attention as the key factor in context dependence of the information. ...
... The principles of ATCP have received substantial support in both human and nonhuman animal experiments (e.g., Ogallar et al., 2017). The empirical evidence that supports the principles of ATCP with human participants comes mainly from predictive learning tasks (for a review see . ...
... As stated above, explaining the combination of these two results found within the same procedure makes it difficult to explain any of them in classic terms. ATCP solves this problem by assuming an attentional mechanism that raises attention to the context when the information becomes ambiguous, coding as context dependent all the information learned once the ambiguity treatment has begun (Ogallar et al., 2017. This interpretation agrees with the idea that the ambiguity that extinction produces in the organism would lead to a general increase in attention (e.g., Schmajuk et al., 1996) through the engagement of the attentional exploratory mechanism (Le Pelley et al., 2016) in a search for the elements that allow the organism to solve the uncertainty that the ambiguous situation produces. ...
Article
Two experiments evaluated whether the experience of extinction makes acquisition context specific (EMACS) while the extinction learning itself also becomes context dependent under ABA and ABC renewal designs in a human predictive learning situation. Two groups of participants received X-Outcome pairings in context A followed by P-Outcome pairings in context B. For participants in group E, cue X was then extinguished in context B while cue P was trained. Participants in group NE were trained with P, but they did not have the extinction experience. Testing target cues outside the context B (i.e. the context in which P was trained and X was extinguished) in group E led to an increase in responding to cue X (Renewal effect) and a decrease in responding to cue P (EMACS effect) regardless of whether the test was conducted in context A (Experiment 1) or in an alternative context C (Experiment 2). Combined results suggest that Renewal and EMACS effects may be based on the same underlying mechanism. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
... To date, the extent to which EC shows similar patterns of contextualized attitude change is still unclear. Extant theories suggest that contextualized attitude change is driven by enhanced attention to context during the encoding of expectancy-violating information (see Ogallar, Ramos-Álvarez, Alcalá, Moreno-Fernández, & Rosas, 2017). However, there is conflicting evidence regarding the role of conscious expectancies in EC. ...
... Conversely, exposure to expectancy-violating information about a target object enhances attention to the context, which leads to an integration of the context into the representation of the expectancy-violating information (see Roese & Sherman, 2007). According to Gawronski and colleagues (2010), this difference in attention to context leads to a dual representation of the target object, including (1) a context-free representation of initially acquired attitudinal information and (2) a contextualized representation of expectancy-violating counterattitudinal information (see also Ogallar et al., 2017). As a result, activation of the counterattitudinal information is limited to the context in which the counterattitudinal information has been learned, allowing initial attitudinal information to shape evaluative responses in any other context. ...
... For the sake of theoretical clarity, it is worth noting that the current findings do not rule out a potential role of conscious expectancies in EC. Assuming that contextual renewal effects are driven by enhanced attention to context during the encoding of expectancy-violating information Ogallar et al., 2017), the current findings are consistent with the hypothesis that CS-US pairings can lead to EC effects independent of conscious expectancies, and they are inconsistent with the hypothesis that conscious expectancies are necessary for EC effects. However, neither of these conclusions implies that conscious expectancies do not contribute to EC effects over and above the contribution of expectancyindependent learning mechanisms (see Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2018). ...
Article
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Research on contextualized attitude change suggests that, even when counterattitudinal information effectively influences evaluations in the context in which this information was learned, previously formed attitudes sometimes continue to determine evaluations in any other context (contextual renewal). Expanding on evidence for contextual renewal in attitude change based on verbal information, five experiments tested the emergence of contextual renewal in evaluative conditioning, involving pairings of a conditioned stimulus with a valenced unconditioned stimulus. Counter to the notion of contextual renewal, counterconditioning changed initially conditioned attitudes to the same extent irrespective of the context. Verbal information presented with the same procedural parameters produced contextual renewal effects only when evaluations were not measured between the formation of initial attitudes and the learning of counterattitudinal information. The results suggest two previously unidentified boundary conditions of contextualized attitude change that need to be reconciled with extant theories of evaluative learning.
... The seminal finding of EMACS effect, motivated Rosas and his colleagues to propose the Attentional Theory of Context Processing (ATCP), extending Bouton's (1993) theory of information retrieval to situations in which contexts play a role in retrieval with cues that have not undergone an interference treatment (Ogallar et al., 2017;Rosas et al., 2006a; see also Gawronski et al., 2010). The ATCP assumes that the main factor determining context-dependence is whether the organism is paying attention to the context at the time of acquisition and testing. ...
... The role of ambiguity in context depencence of information has been shown across different species and procedures (see a review in Ogallar et al., 2017). In rats, the EMACS effect has been observed after both, extinction (Bernal-Gamboa et al., 2015; and pre-exposure in conditioned taste aversion (Bernal-Gamboa et al., 2018). ...
... The second goal was to test the interpretation of the EMACS effect given by Rosas and Callejas-Aguilera (2006) that context-switch effects depend on the attention participants pay to the contexts (see Ogallar et al., 2017;Rosas et al., 2006a;Rosas and Nelson, 2019). To this end, response speed was recorded throughout the experiment under the assumption that changes in attention to contexts and cues may potentially affect the speed of responding (e.g., Cobos et al., 2013). ...
Article
One experiment evaluated the effect of extinction on the context dependence of non-extinguished information in a situation in which physical (images), rather than predominantly verbal, contexts were used in human predictive learning. Participants received training in which different foods (Cues) were associated with the presence or the absence of gastric illness (outcome) in customers of different restaurants (contexts). One cue was associated with the gastric illness while a different cue was either extinguished or not between groups. A change in the context at test led to a general decrease in both predictive judgments and the speed of responding to the non-extinguished cue. However, these decreases were greater when training was conducted during extinction of the different cue demonstrating the extinction makes acquisition context-specific (EMACS) effect. Results are contrasted with failures to find the effect in other reports and discussed in terms of extinction leading to an allocation of attentional resources to the context, facilitating the context dependence of information.
... The approach does not rely on the attention being the result of any particular process or behavior, such as a search for disambiguation. They simply assume that once the organism is paying attention to the context, all information learned within that context becomes contextspecific, regardless of whether that information is inhibitory, excitatory, or first-or second-learned Ogallar, Ramos-Álvarez, Alcalá, Moreno-Fernández, & Rosas, 2017). ...
... That increase in contextual control of information after experiencing interference can also appear across different tasks conducted after the interference experience has taken place (e.g., Bernal-Gamboa, Rosas, & Callejas-Aguilera, 2014;Shanab & Cotton, 1970; see also Bernal-Gamboa, Callejas-Aguilera, Nieto, & Rosas, 2013, for similar effects when the temporal context is manipulated). coalesced these ideas and findings into the Attentional Theory of Context Processing (see also Ogallar et al., 2017). According to this theory, there are five key factors that modulate organisms' attention to the contexts. ...
... The five factors identified above that can lead to attention to contexts have been subsequently reduced to two more general ones, ambiguity and subjective context relevance (including context informative value, context relative salience, and attentional instructions) (e.g., Ogallar et al., 2017). Ambiguity has to do with uncertainty, such as when a CS that has been both conditioned and extinguished is presented, as discussed with the EMACS effect above. ...
Article
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Context dependence of information has been shown to be based, at least in part, on the attention contexts received at the time of training. Recent research suggests that attention to irrelevant contexts may be a byproduct of the activation of a general exploratory attentional mechanism prompted by high prediction errors associated with situations of uncertainty. Alternatively, low prediction errors may engage an attentional mechanism of exploitation in situations in which contexts play a relevant role. A selective review discusses the potential of this approach to explain context switch effects from an attentional perspective.
... Similar results have been reported in humans by using eye tracking devices, finding that participants spend more time looking at stimuli with uncertain outcomes than looking at stimuli with consistent outcomes (Beesley, Nguyen, Pearson, & Le Pelley, 2015;Hogarth, Dickinson, Austin, Brown, & Duka, 2008). Bouton's (1997) idea that ambiguity may lead to an increase of attention to the contexts was taken up and extended by Rosas, Callejas-Aguilera, Ramos-Álvarez, and Abad, (2006) (see also Ogállar, Ramos-Álvarez, Alcalá, Moreno-Fernández, & Rosas, 2017;. suggested that the uncertainty of the situation leads the organism to pay attention to the context, so that all the information learned within that context becomes context-specific, and not only the ambiguous one (c.f., Bouton, 1997). ...
... suggested that there were five factors that modulate the attention contexts receive: attention to the contexts was expected to be boosted by the ambiguity of the situation, when subjects have not yet learned about the role of the different stimuli in the situation at the beginning of training, when the salience of the contexts is increased with respect to the salience of the cues, when contexts are relevant to solve the task, and when instructions focus participants' attention to the context. However, recent reviews of the theory suggest that the five original factors may be reduced to two main ones: ambiguity of the situation and subjective relevance of the context (see Ogállar et al., 2017). The apparently slight twist of considering that, once the organism pays attention to the context, retrieval of all the information learned within that context becomes contextspecific led to a set of unique predictions that were instantiated in the Attentional theory of Context Processing , and that have received a reasonable amount of empirical support from different laboratories (e.g., Bernal-Gamboa, Rosas, & Callejas-Aguilera, 2014;Lucke, Lachnit, Koenig, & Uengoer, 2013;, 2007; but see Nelson & Lamoureux, 2015;Nelson, Lombas, & Léon, 2011). ...
... The idea underlying this exploration pattern is that participants would engage in a search for other sources of information in the absence of reliable predictors. In a reversal training situation such as the one used in these experiments, the outcomes of the CSs became uncertain at the start of Phase II, and that should have facilitated the engagement of the rats on exploratory behaviours that would increase context and new CSs attention in group reversal, favouring learning about context and cues when the evaluation is conducted concurrently to the associative interference treatment (see also Bouton, 1997;Ogállar et al., 2017;. ...
Article
Full-text available
Two experiments were conducted with the goal of exploring the effect of experiencing associative interference upon concurrent learning about conditioned stimuli and contexts in rats’ appetitive conditioning. During the first training phase, two groups of rats received a conditioned stimulus (CS1) followed by food, whereas another conditioned stimulus (CS2) was presented alone. During a second training phase, discrimination was reversed in group R, while it remained the same in group D. A new conditioned stimulus (CS3) was concurrently trained followed by food during this second Phase (Experiment 1). Reversal discrimination did not facilitate concurrent conditioning of the new stimulus, but there was a trend towards facilitation of contextual conditioning, measured by magazine entries in the absence of stimuli, that was confirmed in Experiment 2. These results suggest that the interference treatment may facilitate context conditioning under circumstances and with boundaries that are yet to be established.
... Given this background, the goal of this study was to further test whether the experience of interference facilitates subsequent learning about context, time, or both as a way to test the scope of the idea that an alteration in the prediction error leads to the engagement of an attentional exploratory mechanism (e.g., Beesley et al., 2015;Le Pelley et al., 2016) that facilitates context processing (Bouton, 1997;Ogallar, Ramos-Álvarez, Alcalá, Moreno-Fernandez, & Rosas, 2017;Rosas Callejas-Aguilera, Ramos-Álvarez, & Abad, 2006), or subsequent learning in general (e.g., Shanab & Cotton, 1970). We selected the same appetitive reversal discrimination task used by Alcalá et al. (2018) as the means to produce uncertainty. ...
Article
Three experiments with rats assessed the effects of introducing predictive ambiguity by reversing a Pavlovianly trained discrimination on subsequent context and temporal conditioning. The experience of discrimination reversal did not facilitate context conditioning when the food was presented on a variable time schedule (Experiment 1a). However, in Experiment 1b, discrimination reversal enhanced subsequent learning of a fixed temporal interval associated with unsignaled food presentation in comparison with consistent training. In Experiment 2, temporal discrimination after reversal and consistent training was compared with a naïve control. The experience of discrimination facilitated subsequent temporal conditioning with respect to the naïve control, and discrimination reversal enhanced temporal conditioning even further. In Experiment 3, reversal enhanced learning of the fixed temporal interval, regardless of whether it was relatively short or long (i.e., 30 s or 60 s). Results are discussed in terms of current associative theories of human and nonhuman conditioning and attention. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
... However, the RTF proposed that, given that the new memory would be especially sensitive to the context where it was learned, it would not be retrieved outside of the extinction context (therapist's office). So, if the organism leaves the extinction context, the individual would recover the memory of conditioning, and therefore relapse would occur (Ogállar, Ramos-Álvarez, Alcalá, Moreno-Fernández, & Rosas, 2017;Rosas, Callejas-Aguilera, Ramos-Álvarez, & Abad, 2006). ...
Article
Full-text available
Long-term effectiveness is one of the major problems of psychotherapy because successfully eliminated unhealthy behaviors may reappear relatively easily under certain contextual changes. In two experiments, we explored the impact of verbal retrieval cues on renewal and spontaneous recovery in humans. During the first phase, all participants learned a relationship between one cue and one outcome (X-O1). The following phase involved a change in the original relationship (X-O2). Finally, participants were presented with cue X and asked about the relationships with both outcomes. Half of the participants were asked to remember Phase 2, while the other half did not receive any instruction at all. In Experiment 1, testing took place in a different context, while participants in Experiment 2 were tested after two days. The results indicated that remembering Phase 2 eliminated both renewal and spontaneous recovery. Our findings are discussed under the contemporary learning theory. We also mention the probable benefits in therapeutic settings
... Aware of this limitation, Rosas, Callejas-Aguilera, Ramos-Álvarez, and Abad (2006) suggested that the key for retrieval of a given information becoming context-specific is whether the organism is paying attention to the context when that information is learned. Rosas and his colleagues outlined this idea in what they called the attentional theory of context processing (ATCP; see also Callejas-Aguilera & Rosas, 2010;Ogállar, Ramos-Álvarez, Alcalá, Moreno-Fernández, & Rosas, 2017;, 2007. ...
Article
Retrieval of a flavor–illness association has been found to show contextual dependence when the association is learned after a nontarget flavor–illness association has been extinguished in what has been named as the extinction makes acquisition context-specific (EMACS) effect. Four experiments were designed to further explore the EMACS effect in conditioned taste aversion. Experiments 1 and 2 replicated the EMACS effect using rats that did not experience extinction, and rats that underwent extinction of a different flavor as controls. Experiments 3 and 4 found that the experience of extinction with the nontarget Flavor X in a given context (A) led to context-specificity of performance to the target Flavor Y both, when Y was trained in a highly familiar context (B) and tested in the context where X had been trained (Context A, Experiment 3), and when the test was conducted in a less familiar context (C) where no cues or outcomes were presented before (Experiment 4). These results are consistent with the idea that the experience of extinction encourages organism’s attention to the contexts, making retrieval of new learning context-specific.
... Aware of this limitation, Rosas, Callejas-Aguilera, Ramos-Álvarez, and Abad (2006) suggested that the key for retrieval of a given information becoming context-specific is whether the organism is paying attention to the context when that information is learned. Rosas and his colleagues outlined this idea in what they called the attentional theory of context processing (ATCP; see also Callejas-Aguilera & Rosas, 2010;Ogállar, Ramos-Álvarez, Alcalá, Moreno-Fernández, & Rosas, 2017;, 2007. ...
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It has been suggested that people and nonhuman animals protect their knowledge from interference by shifting attention towards the context when presented with information that contradicts their previous beliefs. Despite that suggestion, no studies have directly measured changes in attention while participants are exposed to an interference treatment. In the present experiments, we adapted a dot-probe task to track participants’ attention to cues and contexts while they were completing a simple category learning task. The results support the hypothesis that interference produces a change in the allocation of attention to cues and contexts.
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Three experiments in human predictive learning assessed the modulating role of instructions on context-switch effects on performance after different levels of training. Cue X (a food name) was paired with an outcome (gastric malaise) in Context A (a specific restaurant), whereas another cue, Y, was presented in the absence of outcome in Context B. The series manipulated the testing context (same or different from the acquisition context), the length of training (short vs. long), and the instructions participants received before testing (attentional or neutral). Attentional instructions intended to either focusing participants' attention on the context (Experiments 1 and 2) or to take attention away from the context (Experiment 3). In agreement with the predictions of the attentional theory of context processing, instructions that focused participants' attention on the context made retrieval of information after long training context specific, something that did not occur in the absence of attentional instructions. Conversely, instructions that took participants' attention away from the context (by focusing their attention on the cue) attenuated context-switch effects that otherwise appear after short training. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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An experiment in human predictive learning was conducted with the goal of exploring the role of the informative value of the context where the information is learned on context dependency of performance. Three groups of participants received training on a discrimination between two cues (X and Y) while another cue (Z) was always followed by the outcome in context A. Discrimination was reversed in context B for group I (informative). Group NI1 received the same X-Y discrimination, while Group NI2 did not receive training with X and Y in context B. Subsequent extinction of Z proceeded faster in context B than in context A in group I, while no differences across contexts were found in groups NI1 and NI2. These results suggest that participants code context-independent information as context dependent when contexts are relevant for solving the task.
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This article presents a comprehensive survey of research concerning interactions between associative learning and attention in humans. Four main findings are described. First, attention is biased toward stimuli that predict their consequences reliably (). This finding is consistent with the approach taken by Mackintosh (1975) in his attentional model of associative learning in nonhuman animals. Second, the strength of this attentional bias is modulated by the value of the outcome (). That is, predictors of high-value outcomes receive especially high levels of attention. Third, the related but opposing idea that may result in increased attention to stimuli (Pearce & Hall, 1980), receives less support. This suggests that hybrid models of associative learning, incorporating the mechanisms of both the Mackintosh and Pearce-Hall theories, may not be required to explain data from human participants. Rather, a simpler model, in which attention to stimuli is determined by how strongly they are associated with significant outcomes, goes a long way to account for the data on human attentional learning. The last main finding, and an exciting area for future research and theorizing, is that and modulate both deliberate attentional focus, and more automatic attentional capture. The automatic influence of learning on attention does not appear to fit the traditional view of attention as being either or . Rather, it suggests a new kind of "derived" attention. (PsycINFO Database Record
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In 4 experiments, the authors used rats to examine the strength of responding during a clicker-tone compound in the presence of a light, after the auditory stimuli had individually been paired with food in the presence of the same light. Experiment 1 demonstrated a higher rate of responding during the compound when the duration of the light was short rather than long. In Experiments 2, 3, and 4, the long duration light was used as a signal for food in a conditional discrimination involving the tone and the clicker. Responding on test trials with the clicker-tone compound during the light was enhanced by this treatment and resulted in a level of performance that was no different from that observed when the duration of the light was short. The results are more compatible with a configural than an elemental theory of associative learning.