Contingency Learning and Unlearning in the Blink of an Eye: A Resource Dependent Process
Schmidt, James R
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Recent studies show that when words are correlated with the colours they are printed in (e.g., MOVE is presented 75% of the time in blue), colour identification is faster when the word is presented in its expected colour (MOVE in blue) than in an unexpected colour (MOVE in green). The present series of experiments explored the possible mechanisms involved in this colour-word contingency learning effect. Experiment 1 demonstrated that the effect was already present after 18 learning trials. During subsequent unlearning, the effect extinguished equally rapidly, suggesting that only a handful of the most recently encountered trials are used to predict responses. Two reanalyses of data from Schmidt, Crump, Cheesman, and Besner (2007) ruled out an account of the effect in terms of stimulus repetitions. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrated that participants who carry a memory load do not show a contingency effect, supporting the hypothesis that limited-capacity resources are used to retrieve a small number of trial memories in order to prepare a response. Experiment 4 demonstrated that memory resources are required for both storage and retrieval processes.