Some Factors That Determine the Influence of a Stimulus That Is Irrelevant to a Discrimination

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In 5 autoshaping experiments pigeons received 3 stimuli, A, B, and C, for a discrimination in which food was presented after the simultaneous compounds AC and BC, but not after the simultaneous compound ABC. The ease with which this discrimination was mastered was facilitated by presenting C continuously throughout each session (Experiment 1), by presenting C by itself for nonreinforced trials (Experiment 2), and by pairing C by itself consistently with food (Experiment 3). Presenting C by itself and pairing it with food according to a partial reinforcement schedule had no significant influence on the acquisition of the discrimination (Experiments 4 and 5). The results are consistent with a configural theory of associative learning that suggests that experience with a stimulus alters its salience.

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