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A configural theory of attention and associative learning

George, David N.; Pearce, John M.


John M. Pearce


A formal account of the relationship between attention and associative learning is presented within the framework of a configural theory of discrimination learning. The account is based on a connectionist network in which the entire pattern of stimulation presented on a trial activates a configural unit that then enters into an association with the trial outcome. Attention is assumed to have two roles within this network. First, the salience of the stimuli at the input to the network can be increased if they are relevant to the occurrence of reinforcement and decreased if they are irrelevant. Second, the associability of configural units can increase on trials when the outcome is surprising and decrease when the outcome is not surprising.


George, D. N., & Pearce, J. M. (2012). A configural theory of attention and associative learning. Learning and Behavior, 40(3), 241-254.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 30, 2012
Online Publication Date Aug 29, 2012
Publication Date 2012-09
Journal Learning & behavior
Print ISSN 1543-4494
Electronic ISSN 1543-4508
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 3
Pages 241-254
Keywords Experimental and Cognitive Psychology; Cognitive Neuroscience; Behavioral Neuroscience
Public URL
PMID 22926999