Paper in PLoS ONE, 7(11)
  • Lee, J. C. & Livesey, E. J. (2012). Second-order conditioning and conditioned inhibition: Influences of speed versus accuracy on human causal learning. PLoS ONE, 7(11), e49899.

    In human causal learning, excitatory and inhibitory learning effects can sometimes be found in the same paradigm by altering the learning conditions. This study aims to explore whether learning in the feature negative paradigm can be dissociated by emphasising speed over accuracy. In two causal learning experiments, participants were given a feature negative discrimination in which the outcome caused by one cue was prevented by the addition of another. Participants completed training trials either in a self-paced fashion with instructions emphasising accuracy, or under strict time constraints with instructions emphasising speed. Using summation tests in which the preventative cue was paired with another causal cue, participants in the accuracy groups correctly rated the preventative cue as if it reduced the probability of the outcome. However, participants in the speed groups rated the preventative cue as if it increased the probability of the outcome. In Experiment 1, both speed and accuracy groups later judged the same cue to be preventative in a reasoned inference task. Experiment 2 failed to find evidence of similar dissociations in retrospective revaluation (release from overshadowing vs. mediated extinction) or learning about a redundant cue (blocking vs. augmentation). However in the same experiment, the tendency for the accuracy group to show conditioned inhibition and the speed group to show second-order conditioning was consistent even across sub-sets of the speed and accuracy groups with equivalent accuracy in training, suggesting that second-order conditioning is not merely a consequence of poorer acquisition. This dissociation mirrors the trade-off between second-order conditioning and conditioned inhibition observed in animal conditioning when training is extended.