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Behav Processes. 2010 Oct;85(3):252-64. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2010.07.016. Epub 2010 Aug 12.

Precedence of spatial pattern learning revealed by immediate reversal performance.

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Department of Psychology, Villanova University, Villanova, PA 19085, USA.


Human participants learned to choose eight correct locations in a 4 × 4 matrix on a computer display. The locations were arranged either in a structured spatial pattern or an unstructured but consistent spatial arrangement. When the assignment of correct and incorrect locations was reversed after initial learning, participants in the spatial pattern condition demonstrated reversal performance immediately (i.e., following the first choice after reversal of the contingencies). Follow-up experiments confirmed that immediate reversal performance depends on a structured spatial pattern among the locations and that a learned motor pattern cannot explain the immediate reversal performance. This pattern of results shows that learning the spatial relations among locations has precedence over learning about the individual locations, even when the individual locations are completely valid predictive cues.

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