Outcome predictability biases cued search.

Oren Griffiths, May Erlinger, Tom Beesley, Michael E. Le Pelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Within the domain of associative learning, there is substantial evidence that people (and other animals) select among environmental cues on the basis of their reinforcement history. Specifically, people preferentially attend to, and learn about, cueing stimuli that have previously predicted events of consequence (a predictiveness bias). By contrast, relatively little is known about whether people prioritize some (to-be-predicted) outcome events over others on the basis of their past experience with those outcomes (a predictability bias). The present experiments assessed whether the prior predictability of a stimulus results in a learning bias in a contingency learning task, as such effects are not anticipated by formal models of associative learning. Previously unpredictable stimuli were less readily learned about than previously predictable stimuli. This pattern is unlikely to reflect the use of strategic search processes or blocking of learning by the context. Instead we argue that our findings are most consistent with the operation of a biased learning mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215-1223
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Associative learning
  • Contingency learning
  • Prediction error
  • Uncertainty
  • Visual search


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