Learning processes affecting human decision making: An assessment of reinforcer-selective Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer following reinforcer devaluation.

Mark McIntosh,'s picture
PubMed URL: 
Johnson AW
Author List: 
Allman MJ
DeLeon IG
Cataldo MF
Holland PC
Johnson AW
J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process
PubMed ID: 
In reinforcer-selective transfer, Pavlovian stimuli that are predictive of specific outcomes bias performance toward responses associated with those outcomes. Although this phenomenon has been extensively examined in rodents, recent assessments have extended to humans. Using a stock market paradigm adults were trained to associate particular symbols and responses with particular currencies. During the first test, individuals showed a preference for responding on actions associated with the same outcome as that predicted by the presented stimulus (i.e., a reinforcer-selective transfer effect). In the second test of the experiment, one of the currencies was devalued. We found it notable that this served to reduce responses to those stimuli associated with the devalued currency. This finding is in contrast to that typically observed in rodent studies, and suggests that participants in this task represented the sensory features that differentiate the reinforcers and their value during reinforcer-selective transfer. These results are discussed in terms of implications for understanding associative learning processes in humans and the ability of reward-paired cues to direct adaptive and maladaptive behavior.
Published Date: 
July, 2010

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