Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
J. Toby Mordkoff
Contemporary learning theories derive much of their explanatory power from the assumption that all stimuli presented vie for associative strength, the assumption of Shared Weight Space (SWS). Theories based on this assumption have proven successful in explaining many of the observed conditioning phenomena in animals. However, work with humans has proven more complex due to outside knowledge, biases, and heuristics (see, e.g., Chapman, 1991; Msetfi et al., 2005; Perales et al., 2004; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974; Viken et al., 2005; Waldmann, 2000 & 2001). The present series of experiments sought to test the assumption of SWS in a task that is less susceptible to the influence of "top-down" factors. An information processing task (i.e., the correlated flankers task) was used so that human participants were completing a central task (i.e., responding to the target) and were unaware as to the importance of the contingencies in the designs, yet were still exposed to them via the irrelevant information (i.e., flankers). Four compound conditioning phenomena were studied in order to test the assumption of SWS. Evidence for the simple predictions coming from SWS theories was mixed. However, a slightly more complex version of these theories can explain the entire pattern of data quite elegantly.
Copyright 2010 Rose Halterman Danek
Danek, Rose Halterman. "A funny thing happened on the way to the maze: incidental learning of irrelevant information in humans." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2010.