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OS_08. Human learning

Friday, September 30th,   2011 [14:20 - 16:00]


OS_08.1 - How implicit is visual statistical learning?

Bertels, J. 1, 2 , Franco, A. 1, 3 , San Anton, M. E. 1 & Destrebecqz, A. 1

1 Université libre de Bruxelles
2 FRS/FNRS (Belgique)
3 FNR (Luxembourg)

In visual statistical learning (VSL), participants learn the statistical regularities present in a sequence of visual shapes. A recent study (Kim, Seitz, Feenstra, & Shams, 2009) suggests that VSL occurs implicitly as it is not accompanied by conscious awareness of these regularities. However, Kim et al.’s conclusion depends on two unwarranted assumptions concerning the nature and the sensitivity of the tasks used to measure participants’ knowledge of the regularities. In a replication of this study, we used a Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) task as an indirect measure of learning, as well as a direct measure consisting in a four-choice completion task. Crucially, binary confidence judgments were also recorded after each completion trial, in order to systematically measure the extent to which sequence knowledge was available to consciousness. Our results show that a subset of participants who learned the regularities between shapes do not have conscious access to their knowledge. In most cases, however, we observed a significant correlation between performance and confidence, suggesting that participants were conscious of the knowledge they were using in the completion task.

OS_08.2 - Inhibition and interference between cues: Training a cue-outcome association prevents the retrieval of other cues associated with the same outcome

Vadillo, M. A. & Ortega-Castro, N.

Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao, Spain

Interference effects have become one of the most important topics in current theorizing about contingency learning. Although most of these studies focus on experimental designs that are to some extent isomorphic to the classic A-B, A-C interference paradigm (i.e., interference between outcomes), it has been found that similar effects can be found in situations that resemble to a A-B, C-B interference paradigm (i.e., interference between cues). However, the available theories, which were designed to account for the former type of interference, are unable to provide an explanation for the latter. Using an adaptation of the standard experimental procedure for the study of retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF), we show that the kind of inhibitory processes invoked in memory research to account for RIF can take place both in A-B, A-C and A-B, C-B interference paradigms. This suggests that the explanatory mechanisms that have been advanced to account for RIF can have an important role in future attempts to provide an integrative explanation of interference between cues and interference between outcomes.

OS_08.3 - Overestimations of null contingencies depend on the probability of the action

Blanco, F. , Matute, H. & Vadillo, M. A.

Departamento de Fundamentos y Métodos de la Psicología. University of Deusto. Bilbao, Spain.

The probability of responding, P(R), is known to bias contingency judgments between actions and uncontrollable outcomes. That is, the more active a participant is, the more likely he/she is to overestimate the null contingency, and thus to develop an illusion of control. The current two experiments test a potential account for this P(R) bias: by responding with high P(R), participants may accidentally expose themselves to higher values of actual contingency. Contrary to this account, our results indicate that contingency overestimations are better predicted by P(R) itself than by any differential exposure to contingency. Moreover, as training proceeds, the actual contingency participants are exposed to gets closer to the programmed zero contingency value. However, this does not result in more accurate judgments of control. This finding motivates a discussion on a potential volitional component of the P(R) bias.

OS_08.4 - Learning to search - simplification of task processing transfers within and across tasks

Gaschler, R. , Vaterrodt, B. & Frensch, P. A.

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Department of Psychology

Theoretical as well as practical concerns render it highly relevant to understand how and why people spontaneously search for and apply shortcut strategies. Here we report skill acquisition research with adults as well as eyetracking data on mental calculation in children to make the case that people can (a) pick up easily and (b) transfer very broadly a general notion that shortcuts can be found and applied in task material. Similar to the concept of “learning to learn” we argue for “learning to search” as a key means in (a) understanding top-down contributions to strategy change in skill acquisition and (b) foster or impede the spontaneous application of shortcut strategies depending on practical goals. The results show that simplification of task processing transfers across items within a task as well as across tasks involving different stimuli, responses and operation rules. In many cases strategy change seems to be driven by a conscious and voluntary decision to apply the knowledge about task regularities acquired incidentally. In primary school mathematics, offering material with regularities that can be found and exploited rather easily seems to be an effective intervention to spark a general search for efficient ways of calculation.

OS_08.5 - Summing causes: People often choose simple non-normative strategies

Ortega-Castro, N. 1 , Barberia, I. 2 , Vadillo, M. A. 1 & Baker, A. G. 2

1 Deusto University, Bilbao, Spain
2 McGill University, Montréal, Canada

Many associative and rule-based theories assume that the probability of a binary outcome given a set of potential binary causes should equal the sum of the independent causal tendencies of each cue or cause. By contrast, some other models such as the Power PC theory of causal learning assume that the causal power of a compound cue or combination of causes should be computed in a more rational way. The causal power of each cue is added but the sum should be corrected by subtracting the overlap between them. We conducted a series of experiments testing these predictions, using different sets of probabilities, several cover stories and different formats of presenting information. We found that participants usually chose the simplest, though not normative, strategy to combine the influence from several causes. Most of the time they simply added the probabilities without considering the potential overlap; other times they averaged both conditional probabilities. Finally, we argue that, based on our experiments, it seems reasonable to conclude that there are a number of factors that might promote one strategy or another.

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