Context Switch Effects on Acquisition and Extinction in Human Predictive Learning

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Four experiments tested context switch effects on acquisition and extinction in human predictive learning. A context switch impaired probability judgments about a cue–outcome relationship when the cue was trained in a context in which a different cue underwent extinction. The context switch also impaired judgments about a cue trained in a context different from the extinction context, whenever this training was concurrent with extinction of another cue. After extinction, new cue–outcome relationships learned, even in a different task, became context specific. Moreover, renewal was consistently observed. It is suggested that context switch effects result from a process by which ambiguity leads participants to attend to the contexts.

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