Taste aversion and the generality of the laws of learning

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Abstract

Results from research on aversions acquired through the pairing of ingested substances with illness have recently been used to challenge the assumption that there are laws of learning that hold across different species and tasks. The taste aversion literature is selectively reviewed and compared with data from traditional experiments in order to evaluate this challenge. Areas sufficiently documented or controversial to warrant inclusion are associative fluidity (acquisition, retention, extinction), CS and UCS characteristics (specificity, intensity, generalization, hedonic value), temporal relationships (trace conditioning, backward conditioning), obtaining and processing information (novelty, learned irrelevance, blocking, conditioned inhibition, sensory preconditioning, 2nd-order conditioning), and age differences. The conclusion is that in no instance are different principles required to describe taste aversion and traditional learning. In some cases large parametric differences between the 2 research areas are apparent. It is suggested that at the present time it is not necessary to dispense with the notion of general laws of learning. (179 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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