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Stimulus similarity affects patterning discrimination learning.

George, David N.



© 2018 American Psychological Association. In four experiments, participants' performance on a variety of nonlinear patterning discriminations was assessed using a predictive learning task and visual patterns. Between groups, the similarity of the stimuli that composed these visual patterns was manipulated. When the stimuli were of low similarity, participants' performance was consistent with the predictions of one version of Pearce's (1987, 1994, 2002) configural theory of learning (Kinder & Lachnit, 2003); they were better able to discriminate between different patterns when they shared few, rather than many, stimuli. This effect was not observed when the similarity of the stimuli was high. Under these conditions, the results were more consistent with predictions of elemental theories of learning (e.g., Rescorla & Wagner, 1972; Wagner, 2003). This is the first time that these different patterns of performance on complex patterning discriminations have been shown within a single stimulus modality in the same experiment. The overall pattern of results is difficult to reconcile with either elemental or configural models of associative learning.


George, D. N. (2018). Stimulus similarity affects patterning discrimination learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 44(2), 128-148.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 17, 2017
Publication Date Apr 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 24, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jan 26, 2018
Journal Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition
Print ISSN 2329-8464
Electronic ISSN 2329-8456
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Issue 2
Pages 128-148
Keywords human, configural, elemental, similarity, discrimination
Public URL
Publisher URL


Article (1.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
©American Psychological Association, 2918. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at:

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