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J Exp Psychol Gen. 1992 Jun;121(2):222-36.

Predictive and diagnostic learning within causal models: asymmetries in cue competition.

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Universit├Ąt Frankfurt, Main, Federal Republic of Germany.


Several researchers have recently claimed that higher order types of learning, such as categorization and causal induction, can be reduced to lower order associative learning. These claims are based in part on reports of cue competition in higher order learning, apparently analogous to blocking in classical conditioning. Three experiments are reported in which subjects had to learn to respond on the basis of cues that were defined either as possible causes of a common effect (predictive learning) or as possible effects of a common cause (diagnostic learning). The results indicate that diagnostic and predictive reasoning, far from being identical as predicted by associationistic models, are not even symmetrical. Although cue competition occurs among multiple possible causes during predictive learning, multiple possible effects need not compete during diagnostic learning. The results favor a causal-model theory.

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