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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2008 Jan;34(1):80-96. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.34.1.80.

An attention-based associative account of adjacent and nonadjacent dependency learning.

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Institut de Psychologie, Laboratoire de Psychologie et Neurosciences Cognitives, Universite Paris Descartes, Paris, France.


In 5 experiments, results showed that when participants are faced with materials embedding relations between both adjacent and nonadjacent elements, they learn exclusively the type of relations they had to actively process in order to meet the task demands, irrespective of the spatial contiguity of the paired elements. These results are consonant with current theories positing that attention is a necessary condition for learning. More important, the results provide support for a more radical conception, in which the joint attentional processing of 2 events is also a sufficient condition for learning the relation between them. The well-documented effect of contiguity could be a by-product of the fact that attention generally focuses on contiguous events. This reappraisal considerably extends the scope of approaches based on associative or statistical processes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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