Selective Attention in Human Associative Learning and Recognition Memory

Oren Griffiths, Chris J. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Four experiments examined the role of selective attention in a new causal judgment task that allowed measurement of both causal strength and cue recognition. In Experiments 1 and 2, blocking was observed; pretraining with 1 cue (A) resulted in reduced learning about a 2nd cue (B) when those 2 cues were trained in compound (AB+). Participants also demonstrated decreased recognition performance for the causally redundant Cue B, suggesting that less attention had been paid to it in training. This is consistent with the idea that attention is preferentially allocated toward the more predictive Cue A, and away from the less predictive Cue B (e.g., N. J. Mackintosh, 1975). Contrary to this hypothesis, in Experiments 3 and 4, participants demonstrated poorer recognition for the most predictive cues, relative to control cues. A new model, which is based on N. J. Mackintosh's (1975) model, is proposed to account for the observed relationship between the extent to which each cue is attended to, learned about, and later recognized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)626-648
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • associability
  • associative learning
  • attention
  • blocking
  • recognition


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