Negative transfer in human associative

Oren Dennis Griffiths, Ameika M. Johnson, Chris J. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Models of attentional allocation in associative learning are typically structured according to one of two guiding principles: the predictiveness principle, which posits that attention is paid to cues that have reliably predicted an outcome in the past, or the uncertainty principle, which states that attention is paid to cues about which little is known. Both principles are well supported by studies of animals. However, in studies of human learning, there is very little direct empirical support for the uncertainty principle. In the study reported here, we addressed this gap by investigating negative transfer, a phenomenon that may provide unique support for the uncertainty principle. In two human learning experiments using an allergist task, we replicated the primary findings of previous research on animal learning. We believe that these data provide the first direct evidence for the uncertainty principle in human associative learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1198-1204
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


  • associative learning
  • attention
  • contingency learning
  • judgment
  • uncertainty


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