Reevaluating Evaluative Conditioning: A Nonassociative Explanation of Conditioning Effects in the Visual Evaluative Conditioning Paradigm

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In 2 studies, the authors investigated whether evaluative conditioning (EC) is an associative phenomenon. Experiment 1 compared a standard EC paradigm with nonpaired and no-treatment control conditions. EC effects were obtained only when the conditioned stimulus (CS) and unconditioned stimulus (UCS) were rated as perceptually similar. However, similar EC effects were obtained in both control groups. An earlier failure to obtain EC effects was reanalyzed in Experiment 2. Conditioning-like effects were found when comparing a CS with the most perceptually similar UCSs used in the procedure but not when analyzing a CS rating with respect to the UCS with which it was paired during conditioning. The implications are that EC effects found in many studies are not due to associative learning and that the special characteristics of EC (conditioning without awareness and resistance to extinction) are probably nonassociative artifacts of the EC paradigm.

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