Automaticity and Cognitive Control in the Learned Predictiveness Effect

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In novel contexts, learning is biased toward cues previously experienced as predictive compared with cues previously experienced as nonpredictive. This is known as learned predictiveness. A recent finding has shown that instructions issued about the causal status of cues influences the expression of learned predictiveness, suggesting that controlled, volitional processes play a role in this effect. Three experiments are reported further investigating the effects of instructional manipulations on learned predictiveness. Experiment 1 confirms the influence of inferential processes, extending previous work to suggest that instructions affect associative memory as well as causal reasoning. Experiments 2 and 3 used a procedure designed to tease apart inferential and automatic contributions to the bias by presenting instructed causes that were previously predictive and previously nonpredictive. The results demonstrate that the prior predictiveness of cues influences subsequent learning over and above the effect of explicit instruction. However, it appears that the relationship between explicit instruction and predictive history is interactive rather than additive. Potential explanations for this interactivity are discussed.

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