Recent studies involving nonlinear discrimination problems suggest that stimuli in human associative learning are represented configurally with narrow generalization, such that presentation of stimuli that are even slightly dissimilar to stored configurations weakly activate these configurations. The authors note that another well-known set of findings in human associative learning, cue-interaction phenomena, suggest relatively broad generalization. Three experiments show that current models of human associative learning, which try to model both nonlinear discrimination and cue interaction as the result of 1 process, fail because they cannot simultaneously account for narrow and broad generalization. Results suggest that human associative learning involves (a) an exemplar-based process with configural stimulus representation and narrow generalization and (b) an adaptive learning process characterized by broad generalization and cue interaction.

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ERIM Article Series (EAS)
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

van Osselaer, S., Janiszewski, C., & Cunha, M. (2004). Stimulus Generalization in Two Associative Learning Processes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 626–638. Retrieved from