Pearce, Dopson, Haselgrove, and Esber (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 38, 167–179, 2012) conducted a series of experiments with rats and pigeons in which the conditioned responding elicited by two types of redundant cue was compared. One of these redundant cues was a blocked cue X from A+ AX+ training, whereas the other was cue Y from a simple discrimination BY+ CY–. Greater conditioned responding was elicited by X than by Y; we refer to this difference as the redundancy effect. To test an explanation of this effect in terms of comparator theory (Denniston, Savastano, & Miller, 2001), a single group of rats in Experiment 1 received training of the form A+ AX+ BY+ CY–, followed by an A– Y+ discrimination. Responding to the individual cues was tested both before and after the latter discrimination. In addition to a replication of the redundancy effect during the earlier test, we observed stronger responding to B than to X, both during the earlier test and, in contradiction of the theory, after the A– Y+ discrimination. In Experiment 2, a blocking group received A+ AX+, a continuous group received AX+ BX–, and a partial group received AX± BX± training. Subsequent tests with X again demonstrated the redundancy effect, but also revealed a stronger response in the partial than in the continuous group. This pattern of results is difficult to explain with error-correction theories that assume that stimuli compete for associative strength during conditioning. We suggest, instead, that the influence of a redundant cue is determined by its relationship with the event with which it is paired, and by the attention it is paid.



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Learning & Behavior

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School of Psychology