Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 www.elsevier.

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Second-order conditioning of human causal learning
Elvia Jara a, Javier Vila a,¤, Antonio Maldonado b
a

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, F.E.S. Iztacala, México b University of Granada, Spain

Received 11 March 2005; received in revised form 30 November 2005 Available online 17 February 2006

Abstract This article provides the Wrst demonstration of a reliable second-order conditioning (SOC) eVect in human causal learning tasks. It demonstrates the human ability to infer relationships between a cause and an eVect that were never paired together during training. Experiments 1a and 1b showed a clear and reliable SOC eVect, while Experiments 2a and 2b demonstrated that Wrst-order extinction did not aVect SOC. These results were similar to those found in animal and human conditioning and suggested that a similar associative mechanism could explain these eVects. However, they can also be used to look into the underlying causal mental model people build and store while they are learning this task. From a cognitive view, overall results suggest that an independent rather than a chain causal mental model is stored after second-order learning in human causal tasks. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Pavlovian conditioning; Second-order conditioning; Extinction; Causal learning

Second-order conditioning (SOC) has been a widely studied topic of associative learning, because it allows the study of an emergent relationship between two events that were never presented together (Pavlov, 1927; Rizley & Rescorla, 1972). In the SOC procedure, there are three phases. In the Wrst training phase, a conditioned stimulus
This research was supported by founds from DGAPA-UNAM (IN302605) and CONACYT (34843-H) and by BSO2003-03723 Spanish research project, granted by MCYT (Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología). We gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of Bruce Overmier. * Corresponding author. E-mail address: javila@cablevision.net.mx (J. Vila). 0023-9690/$ - see front matter © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.lmot.2005.12.001

& Bardo. Letters represent: CS1. 2002). CS2 is presented alone to the subjects while their responses are recorded. 1993). the CS2–CS1–US– CR model. Rizley & Rescorla. Delzer. conditioned response. The fourth type of model considers the existence of an association between CS2 and CS1 where CR emission is only due to the CS1 representation evoked by CS2 (Miller & Escobar. Wrst-order stimulus. 1996. in autoshaping of keypecking (Rashotte. (1) CS2 CS1 CR (2) CS2 CS1 US CR (3) CS2 CS1 US CR (4) CS2 CS1 US CR Fig. Davey & Arulampalan. due to temporal contiguity between them during second-order training. US. there have been demonstrations in humans using non-verbal stimuli in aversive electrodermal conditioning (Davey & McKenna. 1982).E. 1976). 1981. 1995). . A third type of model assumes the establishment of a direct association between CS2 and the US representation. CS2 can evoke the CR (Barnet & Miller. The results have commonly shown that CS2 evokes the same conditioned response (CR) as does CS1. it has been demonstrated in aversive conditioning (Bevins. 1 (Barnet. because during the second phase the US representation could be activated in the presence of CS2 by CS1. CS2. Cole. 1979. The most traditional model. 1983. proposed the acquisition of a direct connection between CS2 and CR reinforced by the presence of CS1. Jara et al. most of them are derived from associative learning theories. For instance. GriYn. in the test phase. 1979) and in sexual behavior (Crawford & Domjan. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 231 (CS1) is followed by an unconditioned stimulus (US). & Sisk. Many theoretical models have been oVered. second-order stimulus. 1927). & Miller. Mackintosh. unconditioned stimulus. in an attempt to explain SOC. Cheatle & Rudy. 1. which is based upon the S-R model. as shown in Fig. suggests the existence of a chain of associative representations in such a way that CS2 will evoke a representation of CS1 which will evoke the US representation that in turn elicits CR (Hall. Finally. even though CS2 was never directly paired with the US (Pavlov. 1972). Rescorla & Cunningham. 1996. due to this association. These models can be grouped into four diVerent types based on the diVerent possible kinds of associations that could be formed during SOC. SOC has been studied in animals employing diVerent types of US and responses. CR. as well as the Rescorla and Wagner (1972) model (Rashotte. 1996. Miller & Barnet. 1977. a secondorder conditioned stimulus (CS2) is presented along with CS1. 1974). In the second phase. A second type of model. Also. Rescorla. DiVerent hypotheses about the associations established during SOC. 1997). derived from associative learning theories.

In their experiment. C2–C1–E). (C1. 1995. C2. the normative causal mental model should be a chained one.232 E. Although second-order conditioning has not yet been directly studied in humans using causal learning tasks. enlarging the Weld of knowledge on explanatory models of learning (Shanks. the participants are asked to give a judgment about the degree of association between cues and outcomes (Dickinson et al. and Maldonado (2004) have recently shown how people are able to infer a relationship between two diVerent cues (C1. based on two diVerent and independent experiences where each cue was paired with the same consequence. by US habituation or instructions. Recent research into human learning using causal learning tasks could clarify this issue. 1980. However. produces C1 as an eVect. CS Wrst-order extinction had been the most used one. and Evenden (1984) to suggest that causal or contingency learning tasks could be considered similar to animal conditioning procedures. 1980. causes are considered formally equivalent to CSs and. as well as instructions and habituation in humans (Davey & McKenna. in which. 1972) and humans (Davey & McKenna. a C1–E and C2–E mental model. 1984). These results suggest that the types of associations formed during second-order conditioning are not mediated by CS1. have been that the CR evoked by CS2 persists more or less at the same magnitude. Holland & Rescorla. US devaluation (Crawford & Domjan. Davey & Arulampalan. Jara et al. which were originally studied in animals.e. have allowed the replication of diverse eVects of associative learning in humans. this arrangement could give rise to an inference process in which people learn that the second-order cause is the cause of the Wrst-order one. the Wrst phase C1 produces a given eVect and during the second phase another cause. The Wnding that CS2 still evokes CR even after extinction of CS1 appears to suggest that the associations and the contents of learning during a second-order conditioning could be diVerent from those of Wrst-order learning. both in animals (Fujii. C2) almost all participants used a common eVect (E) mental model in which each cause could inXuence independently the same eVect. Among these. C2). This chained mental model could easily explain second-order conditioning in learning tasks as a process of transitive . even when causes and eVects were never presented together. CS1 is presented without being followed by the US during a third phase. Catena.. 1981. after SOC had been established.. in consequence. After several trials. Rizley & Rescorla. Rizley & Rescorla. such as CS1 extinction (Rescorla. 1995). Although Wrst-order learning is aVected by CS1 extinction. as well as causal learning tasks. 1975). 1983. i. Holland & Rescorla. however. Contingency learning tasks consist in presenting a series of trials in which a cue (CS) and an outcome (US) may or may not be presented together. 1982). Rizley & Rescorla. which in turn produces the common eVect (i. Perales. 1975. In second-order causal learning. the debate still continues whether associations are between CS2 and CR or are mediated by the US representation. The most frequent results. in spite of the fact that the CR evoked by CS1 has been extinguished. 1972). 1983). 1972). being more compatible with a CS2–CS1–US associative model. 1983..e. when the two cues were causes. by US devaluation. SOC is not subsequently inXuenced by any of these factors (Davey. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 To evaluate the nature of the learned associations during SOC. Rescorla. In a causal learning task. the eVects equivalent to USs in such a way that causal judgment can reXect the degree of association between them. Shanks. Contingency. They also showed that the most frequent assumption during the causal inference process was an independent causal mental model. The interest in studying associative learning phenomena in humans led Dickinson. several post-conditioning revaluation techniques have been used. In this type of procedure.

should also produce a disruption of the causal relationships between C1 and the same eVect. all participants learned during the Wrst phase that a disease (C1) caused the appearance of a substance in the blood (E1) in several patients. The use of this extinction technique had two goals. another cause (C3) and a second eVect (E2) were also presented during the Wrst phase and another new cause (C4) and C3 were presented during the second-order phase. the results will show whether or not the same eVects happen in conditioning and causal learning tasks and. The experimental task consisted of a series of trials presented to the participants. while C4 and C3 were presented together during the second phase. The second and more important objective was to evaluate the associative structure of SOC in causal learning tasks by the subsequent extinction of the Wrst-order relationship (C1–E1). At the end of both training phases. in which people learn that the C1 does not produce the eVect. Then. Jara et al. the use of such a procedure might reveal whether the results are or not the same in a causal learning and a conditioning task and might also clarify whether a chained mental model underlies causal attributions during SOC.E. To this end. Experiments 2a and 2b used the same experimental task. such as context. appearance of a substance in the blood). For the other half of the participants. Experiment 1a The main objective of Experiment 1a was to demonstrate a second-order conditioning phenomenon within human causal learning. while they should infer the non-existence of causal relationships between the other cause (C4) and the second eVect (E2). Such results argue against a chained causal mental model because a post-conditioning extinction procedure. they were asked about C2–E1 to Wnd out if SOC was or was not extinguished as well. In the second phase. in a similar way to that in which SOC was shown in classical conditioning studies. participants should infer the existence of causal relationships between the second-order cause (C2) and the Wrst eVect (E1). and emotion. memory. In the testing phase. but after SOC training the participants experienced a third phase of extinction where C1 no longer produced E1. For half of the participants. First of all. the results can permit us to clarify whether or not a chained causal mental model underlies SOC in human learning tasks. C3 and E2 were not paired during the Wrst phase. Experiments 1a and 1b aimed to show the existence of SOC in humans using causal learning tasks. Therefore. the participants were asked to judge to what degree C2 will cause the appearance of the eVect E1. the participants were asked to make a causal judgment about the relationship between the second-order cause (C2. In a Wctitious situation. independently of any CR elicitation that could also be inXuenced by other factors. The inference of a causal relationship between a second-order cause (C2) and an eVect (E) that were never presented together would also bear out those associative models proposing a direct connection between causes (CS) and eVects (US). In the Wrst phase. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 233 inference. In both cases. a similar experimental design as the one used by Rizley and Rescorla (1972) in animals was employed. a cause C1 was followed by an eVect E1. a chemical substance (C2) consumed by the patients caused the disease presented in the Wrst phase (C1). In the second phase. a diVerent cause C2 produced the cause C1. Consequently. the chemical substance) and the eVect (E1. C3 and the eVect (E2) were paired during the Wrst phase. CS2 still elicits CR. In summary. but C3 and C4 were never paired during the second phase. second. but it has been shown that after extinction of the Wrst component in animal and human second-order conditioning tasks. As a control. .

Jara et al. The participants were randomly divided into two groups (12 participants in each condition). The Super Lab Pro v 2. used in food preservation. After the participants read the instructions. Does this disease cause the appearance of the blood substance Alpha?” Under the question. If you detect some changes in the experiment you should continue. By pressing keys. and depending on the counterbalancing. for instance. Below the laboratory name. Cues C1 and C3 were names of two diVerent diseases (Midiasis or Xeritis). and you should identify if theses chemical substances. You should identify whether these diseases are related to the substances Alpha and Beta that are found in the blood of patients. At the beginning. The training screen was present as follows (relations could change because of the counterbalance). but little by little you will become an expert. they had to write the number three on a sheet of paper.234 E. They were seated in a chair facing a screen. the participants had to give a prediction. are related to these diseases. and these diseases are known as Midiasis and Xeritis. Alpha with the number three and Beta with the number Wve. On each trial. with half of the participants tested at each of two sessions (because of counterbalance). / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 Method Participants The participants were 24 undergraduate students of psychology between 18. and Wnally C2 and C4 were chemical substances (Neocina or Licaina). Remember that you can take as much time as you need to complete the experiment. Press any key to continue.” in pink capital letters. you will see that patients ate sausages which contain the substances Neocina and Licaina. and they were counterbalanced across the participants. Also. All of them were used in this experiment as stimuli. . on the contrary.) was used to show the cues. Procedure The experiment was conducted in a dark room. instructions translated into English were as follows: Two new diVerent diseases were found in ‘Gersy Laboratories’ in The Netherlands. if they considered that the disease would cause Beta.and 25years-old who volunteered to take part in the experiment as part of their course requirements. Apparatus and stimuli An IBM compatible computer and a projector were used in the experiment. At the top of the screen was centered the laboratory name “Gersy Laboratories. The experiment was conducted in Spanish. Paper and pencil were provided to register their prediction and their judgment. your answer will be uncertain. you will Wnd out whether they have some relation. a sentence such as the following appeared in purple color: “The patient has Midiasis. if participants considered that Midiasis would cause Alpha. Once the prediction was made. they had to write the number Wve. to which slides of the stimuli were to be projected. the training phase began. the name of the two blood substances appeared in blue color each one associated with a key number. These diseases are transmitted quickly. the participants were given the correct feedback (1200 ms duration). the eVects E1 and E2 were blood substances (Alpha or Beta).1 software for Windows (Cedrus Co.

Jara et al.01. The results revealed only a main eVect of on Type of Cause. In the non-paired PN or NP second condition. p < . A 2 £ 2 analysis of variance (ANOVA). with the slash dividing the type of causes. Participants estimated a higher relationship in SOC (C2–E1) type of causes than in the nonpaired (C4–E2) ones.43. Results and discussion The upper in Fig.” Below the instructions. NP and PN represent Non-paired. and C5: diseases Midiasis. C2 and C4: chemical substances Neocina or Licaina. Paired (P) or nonpaired (N) presented randomly and intermixed. 50. In each one of the two groups (PP/PN and PP/NP). After both training phases. 75. Wnally. C2–E1 Table 1 Experimental designs Experiment 1a Group (n D 12) PP/NP PP/PN 1b PP/NP PP/PN 2a 2b Phase 1 C1–E1 C3–No E2 C1–E1 C3–E2 C1–E1 C3–No E2 C1–E1 C3–E2 C1–E1 C3–E2 C1–E1 C3–E2 C1–E1? C3–E2? C1–E1? C3–E2? C1–E1? C3–E2? Test Phase 2 C2–C1 C4–C3 C2–C1 C4–No C3 C2–C1 C4–C3 C2–C1 C4–No C3 C2–C1 C4–C3 C2–C1 C4–C3 C2–C1? C4–C3? C2–C1? C4–C3? C2–C1? C4–C3? C1–No E1 C5–No E2 C1–No E1 C5–No E2 C1–E1? C5–E2? Test Phase 3 Test SOC Test C2–E1? C4–E2? C2–E1? C4–E2? C2–E1? C4–E2? C2–E1? C4–E2? C2–E1? C4–E2? C2–E1? C4–E2? Note. causal judgments about the relationships between the second-order cause and the eVect. For all participants.E. where 0 represents that it never produced the substance and 100 that it always produces the substance. the stimulus name was written on the left and a little square was drawn on the right. the causes (C3 and C4) were followed (P) or not (N) by their eVects (E2 or C3) in another 12 trials during the Wrst and the second phases. and the second letter represents the second phase. C1. C3. PP/PN) and the second factor the two Types of Cause (C2 and C4) was performed on the participants’ judgments. each phase consisted of two blocks of 12 diVerent trials. F (1. The participants were asked to make causal judgments according to the following instructions. The rest of the letters represents the diVerent stimuli presented counterbalanced along training. the causes C1 and C2 were always followed by their eVects (E1 or C1) in 12 trials during each phase (the SOC or paired PP condition). 2 panel shows the mean judgments for the SOC test phase. with the Wrst factor being the two Groups (PP/NP vs. Table 1 summarizes the design of this experiment. Xeritis or Zatuba. all participants were asked for causal judgments about the relationship between both the second-order paired cause and its possible eVect (C2–E1) and the non-paired cause and its possible eVect (C4–E2). PP represents Paired type of causes.67. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 235 Experiment 1a employed both between and within design variables. The participants had to give their judgments on a sheet of paper. because in both groups. and 100%. a numerical scale from 0 to 100 appeared with marks at 0. MSE D 1714. The Wrst letter represent Wrst phase. 22) D 11. “To what degree do you believe Neocina causes the blood substance Alpha to appear? You must use a 0–100 scale. E1 and E2: blood substances Alpha or Beta. 25. . the experiment had two diVerent phases of training.

i. 1972. and hatched bars represent Non-paired Type of Cause. Rescorla. (the paired PP conditions. Davey & Arulampalan. from whether the eVect was related to a primary cause (C1) and. Open bars represent SOC Type of Cause. as well as in conditioning tasks. whether this cause was also an “eVect” of the second- .e. These Wndings revealed a SOC eVect similar to that commonly observed in animals using appetitive and aversive conditioning (Crawford & Domjan. 1980) as well as in humans using electrodermal associative conditioning (Davey & McKenna. Mean judgments for the SOC test. second. depends on paired presentations in both training phases.236 100 E. 2. SOC) were signiWcantly higher than those about C4–E2 (the non-paired NP or PN conditions). 1983. Error bars denote standard errors of the mean. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 EXPERIMENT 1a 80 60 40 20 Mean Judgment 0 100 EXPERIMENT 1b 80 60 40 20 C2-E1 C4-E2 0 PP / NP GROUP PP / PN GROUP Fig. The results showed that people are able to infer a causal relationship between a second-order cause (C2) and an eVect (E1) that were never presented together. This inference comes from independent experiences. These results are the Wrst demonstration of SOC in human causal learning tasks. 1982). Rizley & Rescorla. Wrst.. 1995. Jara et al. and they also show that SOC in causal learning tasks.

66 4.16 18. participants were asked to make a causal judgment not only at the end of training. and they were randomly divided into two groups (12 participants in each condition). / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 237 order cause (C2).25 87.16 8.16 86.33 72.83 91.75 89.25 83.83 84.91 33. Types of causes in Experiment 1b are represented by PP: Paired and NP: Non-paired. the participants were asked to judge the relationships between C2–E1 and C4–E2 as in the previous experiment.E. Their ages varied between 18 and 24. UNP Non-paired. Types of causes are represented by: SOC Second-order.3 Third phase SOC Test 79. but also after each experimental training phase. it had only a Wnal test at the end of all training phases.16 67.16 20. This fact allows for the possibility that the results were not based on learned relations in the training phases.91 4. Participants were able to accurately detect both the relationship between causes and their contingent eVects and the lack of relationships between non-paired causes and eVects. Table 2 Mean judgment after each experimental phase for Experiments 1b and 2b Experiment 1b Group PP/NP PP/PN 2b Type of Cause SOC UNP SOC UNP EXT SOC First phase 91.91 Note. while investigating whether the participants accurately detected the contingent relationships established among causes and eVects in each experimental phase. The control for the type of causes showed the need for a positive correlation between elements in both phases to get such a second-order eVect. Method Participants Twenty-four undergraduate students of psychology participated in this experiment for course credits. In this experiment.91 95. Finally. just as is the case in associative conditioning procedures. and EXT Extinction. To prove that phases 1 and 2 did produce causal learning. Results and discussion Table 2 shows the mean judgment for each relationship after each experimental phase. the Experiment 1b objective was to replicate the SOC eVect. Jara et al.33 66. . Experiment 1b Although Experiment 1a showed SOC occurs in causal learning tasks. Procedure The procedure and design were identical to those described in Experiment 1a. The next experiment aimed to replicate these Wndings while providing evidence for the existence of causal learning during each phase.58 89. to assess the SOC association.58 Second phase 97. the only diVerence being that the participants were requested to estimate the relationships between causes and eVects at the end of each training phase.

These results suggested the formation of a direct link between CS2 and CR (Rizley & Rescorla. A posteriori analyses revealed that between-judgments diVerences were only signiWcant when the causes were not followed by their eVects. Moreover. they also showed that participants were able to infer the absence of relationships between a secondorder cause and the Wrst-order eVect. In general. These results always showed accurate judgments. 1983. Davey. 2 shows the mean judgment for C2–E1 and C4–E2 relationships. The 2 £ 2 £ 2 ANOVA (Groups £ Type of Cause £ Training phase) performed upon causal judgments yielded a signiWcant interaction between the three factors. indicating that the SOC response is not mediated by some association between CS2 and CS1. However. second.4.12. the nature of the second-order association in human causal learning using post-conditioning extinction and. Jara et al. These results replicated the novel Wnding of SOC in Experiment 1a. The conditioned response continues to be elicited by the second-order CS after extinction of the Wrst-order relationship. Experiment 2a The previous experiments identiWed necessary and suYcient conditions for secondorder conditioning (SOC) in a causal learning task.7. & Miller. while. The use of a causal learning task could clarify this issue. F (1. when causes and eVects were not paired in either of the two phases. MSE D 2161. 1972). p < . 1991. the results of Experiments 1a and 1b have shown that the procedure was appropriate to study SOC in causal learning tasks and that the development of SOC depends on the relationships between causes and eVects in both training phases.01. 1972). 1993).01. at the same time. 22) D 53.99. 1987. MSE D 456. The experimental design was similar to the previous ones. Rescorla.30. 22) D 28. The 2 £ 2 ANOVA (Groups x Type of Cause) showed only a main eVect for Type of Cause. or possibly between CS2 and US (see Barnet.01. they left open the question of the nature of the learned associations underlying SOC. but with a third phase that included extinguishing the Wrst-order relationship learned during the Wrst phase. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 Higher causal judgments were obtained when causes were followed by their eVects than when they were not. The main goal of Experiments 2a and 2b was to evaluate. Holland & Rescorla. Participants’ causal judgments were higher about SOC or paired type of causes (C2) than about non-paired ones (C4). MSE D 456.4. Although Experiments 1a and 1b results were expected. Rizley & Rescorla. These results are similar to those found in animal conditioning. 22) D 13. they are important because they are the Wrst demonstrations of SOC in human causal learning tasks. F (1.238 E. as well as the interaction between Type of Cause £ Training phase. F (1. p < . Miller & Barnet. Experiments 2a and 2b extend our analysis of SOC in causal learning by showing the eVect of the Wrst-order extinction relationships upon SOC. as in the Wrst phase of the PP/NP group (paired C1–E1 versus non-paired C3–E2) and the second phase of the PP/PN group (paired C2–C1 vs nonpaired C4–C3). 1975. p D . as in Experiment 1. The common Wnding in animal and human learning associative conditioning tasks has been that SOC is not inXuenced by extinction of Wrst-order conditioning (Davey & McKenna. the generality of such eVects by showing whether SOC in causal learning is aVected by the same variables that aVect associative conditioning tasks. Arnold. the eVect of extinction upon . 1980. The lower panel of Fig. higher when the causes were followed by their eVects and lower when the causes were not followed by them. Wrst.

e. In the EXT type of cause condition.“No”with the number Wve. for example Zatuba (C5) and a second eVect (Beta. they found that participants were able to establish an emergent relationship between the two cues that were never presented together. i. while. The presentation of trials on the screen was identical to that described in previous experiments. people form an association between “causes and eVects” (i. Method Participants Twelve undergraduate students of psychology participated in this experiment for course credits. Their ages varied from 19 to 24. the next question that appeared was “Does this disease cause the appearance of the substance Alpha in the blood? Again. Depending on the counterbalancing. the participants were required to judge the relationships between the second-order causes and eVects.” Under this sentence.. the normative and rational causal model should be chained (C2–C1–E). In the SOC type of cause condition. the participants had to give an answer indicating “Yes” with the number three and. Procedure The experimental design is summarized in Table 1.E. the only diVerence was that a novel cause.” In the test phase. the information given in these trials was for example: “The patient has Midiasis. if the extinction of the relationship between the Wrst-order cause and the eVect did not have any inXuence on the second-order relationship. Accordingly. . and they only diVered during the third extinction phase. where two cues were subsequently linked to the same eVect in two diVerent phases. (2004) employed a mediated learning procedure. The third phase consisted in two intermixed counterbalanced blocks of 12 trials. After their response. at the same time. SOC and EXT.e. the extinction of the relationship between the Wrst-order cause and the eVect should aVect the perceived relationship between the second-order cause and the same eVect. that the second-order cause (C2) produces the Wrst one (C1). E2) were presented. Assuming that during a second-order causal learning task. as seems to happen in animal and human associative conditioning procedures. if participants have formed such a chained mental model. they showed that participants used an independent cause mental model rather than a chained cause mental model. the Wrstorder cause (C1) was presented without being followed by the eVect (E1). However. the feedback indicated that “Zatuba does not cause Beta. First and second-order training phases were similar to those described in previous experiments with the diVerence that in both phases the contingency established among the causes and the eVects was always 1. After the participant responded. as they have learned that the Wrst-order cause (C1) produces the eVect (E) and. subsequently. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 239 second-order causal learning could also reveal the causal mental model people build when they learn such causal relationships. After the training. feedback was presented in the sentence “Midiasis does not cause Alpha” (1200 ms duration).0.. Jara et al. using a scale from 0 to 100. In previous experiments. C2–E1 and C4–E2. if there is a mediation of the Wrst cause (the CS1 in conditioning procedures). This experiment had two diVerent types of causes. Perales et al. the CS and the US in a conditioning procedure). this would imply the formation of a diVerent mental model in which each cause could be directly and independently linked with the same eVect.

3 displays the mean judgment given during the test phase. once learned.759. Mean judgments for SOC test. 1983). showing that the extinction of C1–E1 relationships did not aVect the second-order causal judgments. the C2–E1 association seems independent of the C1–E1 association. the Wrst-order relationship was extinguished after second-order learning.0. Experiment 2b In Experiment 2b. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 Results and discussion The left panel of Fig. p D . and hatched bars represent SOC Type of Cause. A one-way ANOVA performed on the participant judgments did not reveal any signiWcant eVect for Type of cause F (1. Rizley & Rescorla. 11) D . However. assessed whether the participants had learned the relations presented in each phase. 1975. the participants were required to estimate the causal relationships after each training phase.09. These results replicated those obtained in animal conditioning experiments (Fujii. MSE D 187.240 E. Error bars denote standard errors of the mean. Holland & Rescorla. 100 80 Mean Judgment 60 40 20 C2-E1 C4-E2 0 EXPERIMENT 2a EXPERIMENT 2b Fig. as was also found in animal conditioning (Rizley & Rescorla. Jara et al. 1981. 1972) and those observed in electrodermal associative conditioning with human participants (Davey & McKenna. in addition. These results suggest that although the C1–E1 relationships are a necessary condition to form a SOC association. Open bars represent Extinction Type of Cause. to determine whether they in fact learned the contingencies presented in each phase. 1972) and human aversive conditioning (Davey & McKenna. In the previous Experiment 2a. Experiment 2b attempted to replicate the same eVect and. . The results showed that such extinction did not have any eVect on the second-order causal learning. it seems important to be sure that the participants had actually extinguished the Wrst-order relationship. 1983). before further discussing this issue. especially in extinction. 3. No diVerences appear between the SOC and EXT types of causes. Revaluation of C1–E1 association had no eVect on responding to C2.

This pattern of results is important because it permits us to conWrm the extinction of the Wrst-order relationship. This analysis revealed diVerences between phases but not between type of causes. 1983). Finally.83. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 241 Consequently. the main Wnding of both Experiment 2a and 2b was that extinction of the Wrst-order relationship did not aVect the second-order relationship. 33) D 39. Overall results suggest that the structure which mediates the secondorder learning is based on an independent causal relationship between C2 and the EVect without any mediation by C1.60.E. F (1.05). the results of Experiment 2b showed a similar eVect to the one found in Experiment 2a. Method Participants Twelve undergraduate students of psychology. MSE D 782. This Wnding is similar to those found in conditioning experiments carried out with animals and humans (Davey & McKenna. participated in this experiment for course credits.001. This last result further demonstrated that SOC was not aVected by extinction of the Wrst-order relationship. A oneway ANOVA. MSE D 584. the participants had to give a judgment about C2–E1 and C4–E2 relationships to show the level of SOC. LSD Post Hoc tests did not reveal signiWcant diVerences between the Wrst and the second phase judgments (p > . In summary. p D .02. 19. because no diVerences appeared between SOC and EXT conditions. F (2. 11) D . . but diVerences were signiWcant between each of these phases and the third phase (p < . p < . The right panel of Fig. the only diVerence was that the participants were requested to estimate the relationships between causes and eVects at the end of each training phase. the participants were asked to estimate the causal relationships between each cause and its eVect after each experimental phase. Participant causal judgments were similarly higher after the Wrst and second-order phases and lower after the extinction phase. MSE D 46.to 24-year-old. a second 2 £ 2 ANOVA was carried out to compare Type of Cause during the third phase and the Wnal test. These impressions were corroborated by a 3 £ 2 (Phases £ Type of Cause) ANOVA which yielded a signiWcant eVect of Phases.88. Results and discussion The participants accurately detected the contingencies between causes and eVects programmed in each experimental phase.5. 3 displays the mean judgment given on the SOC test and reveals that the judgments remained high despite extinction of the Wrst-order relationship. at the end of training phases.05). In general. because judgments about the second-order causes were signiWcantly diVerent from judgments about the Wrst-order extinguished causes. F (1. However. as can be observed in Table 2. p D .86. This conclusion is parallel to the original Wnding of Rizley and Rescorla (1972) with the classical conditioning paradigm. 22) D 70.96. Procedure The procedure and experimental design were identical to those one used in Experiment 2a and are summarized in Table 1. indicated that there was no diVerence between SOC and EXT type of causes during the test phase.01. Jara et al.

White and Davey (1989) found that they still showed a strong relationship between CS2 and CR. To summarize. Therefore. The additional and most important Wnding of Experiments 2a and 2b was that extinction of the Wrst-order causal relationship (C1–E) did not inXuence the acquired second-order relationship (C2– E). At the same time. There could be a direct connection between CS2 and the conditioned response itself. an emergent CS2–CR association is formed even though CS2 and the US were never presented together (Brogden. as suggested by more recent theories (Barnet et al. the only explanations of SOC have been derived from associative views based upon the four types of possible learned associations (Fig. A theoretical beneWt of Experiments 2a and 2b was the information about association types that are learned during SOC.242 E. These results bear out Rizley and Rescorla’s (1972) proposals that SOC and sensory-preconditioning may be products of diVerent underlying associative structures. The results obtained using causal learning tasks suggested that there could be such a direct link between the CS (the cause) and US (the eVect) because the participants were able to infer the existence of a causal relationship between them. This view is entirely consistent . 1993). remains an open question for future research into human causal learning. Rizley & Rescorla. The usual Wnding had been that extinction of Wrst-order conditioning did not reduce the conditioned response to the second-order stimulus (CS2). 1991). 1) during second-order conditioning. then it seems no longer dependent on the Wrst-order association.. subsequently. as well as the perception of a relationship between C2 and E1. However. Until now. 1939). When using such a sensory-preconditioning procedure in humans. CS1 is paired with the US. suggesting the absence of any CS1 mediation in the elicitation of the second-order response. once the second-order association is established. without any conditioned response. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 General discussion The primary novel Wnding of this research was a reliable second-order conditioning eVect in human causal learning tasks in two independent experiments. unless such causal judgment is considered a conditioned response. the successive cue-outcome pairings progressively strengthen the connection between the mental representation of the cue and the outcome giving rise to the CR (Allan. This last result suggests that causal learning and conditioning tasks probably are mediated. the results could clarify the type of causal mental model participants may be using to establish the emergent relationship between C2 and the EVect. SOC does not develop. by similar learning mechanisms (Dickinson et al. the overall results showed that second-order causal learning. there still remained two possible associations responsible for the eVect. Accordingly. or the response could be dependent on a direct link between CS2 and the US. Jara et al. 1984). 1972). where if CS2 and CS1 are paired in a Wrst training phase and. as suggested by S-R theory (cf. even after post-conditioning inXation of US. But. In addition. whether the type of associations formed during sensory-preconditioning and SOC are the same and similarly aVected by extinction of C1–US. In the absence of such contingent pairings. It is important because it suggests people are able to infer a causal relationship between causes and eVects that were never experienced together. is dependent on the strength of the contingent acquisition relationship between the Wrst-order cause and the eVect (C1–E1). at least in part.. Experiments 1a and 1b also showed that the main determinant of SOC is the prior correlation between cause and eVect. these results seem compatible with those found in animal and human sensory-preconditioning experiments. as happened in the non-paired conditions.

see also Perales et al. C1 no longer produces E1. When learning was that “C3 causes E2. 2001) emphasize that causal relationships can not be reduced to covariation between the events or to mere associations. and C2 causes C1. These results are important. Non-observed relationships between a cause and an eVect can then be inferred from such mental models built either by the integration of the information provided via instructions or by the knowledge acquired during the task. 2001). 1983).e.e. In agreement with these experimental results on human reasoning (Goldvarg & Johnson-Laird. In this way.” such as “If C1 causes E1. because they are a product of top–down higher cognitive processes. at least two diVerent causal models could be built during SOC training. Accordingly. C2–C1–E1. i. 2000. as also happened in human reasoning experiments (Goldvarg & Johnson-Laird. 1983). as shown by the eVects of causal directionality in cue competition. or in mediated learning eVects. because they could allow a reinterpretation of the nature of the causal relationship learned during second-order conditioning tasks and the type of causal mental models naïve participants built during such a learning experience. because it is normatively inaccurate. The most obvious one should be a chained cause mental model in which C2 produce C1 which in turn cause E1 (i. it is assumed that causal relationships are learned within a “causal mental model” by encoding assumptions about the causal status of the events (causes and eVects. giving rise to the conditioned response without the need of any CS1 mediation (Barnet et al. its structure being isomorphic to that provided by the situation. should lead to disruption of the causal link between C2 and the same eVect. It was unexpected. and C4 prevents C3” or “C3 prevents E2. 2001) and as Experiment 1b convincingly showed. If this was the model built by the participants. the results might also be explained from more recent causal learning theories. If participants are taught by means of instructions or by direct experience that a cause (C1) produces an eVect (E1) and that another cause (C2) produces this Wrst cause. Jara et al. C2– C1–E1). and C4 causes C3. However. people are able to accurately detect true causal relationships and diVerentiate them from spurious correlations. our results could be seen as a product of simple deductive reasoning in the form of “axioms or inference rules. and C1 prevents E1. “if C2 causes C1. the Wnding that SOC happens in human causal learning is not at all surprising. we should expect that extinction of the Wrst link. Waldmann & Hagmayer. By contrast. From this perspective. then C2 causes E1. The . the lack of inXuence of extinction of the Wrst-order relationships upon the second-order causal relationship was an unexpected and important result..” However. it seems very easy to infer the existence of a causal relationship between all components as a causal chain. participants were also able to infer the absence of relationships when one of the conditions was preventative. Experiments 2a and 2b showed that participants were unable to make such a logical inference.” then participants logically inferred that C4 did not cause E2. Recent developments in the Weld of human causal learning (Cheng. According to logical inference rules and the results obtained in human deductive reasoning (Goldvarg & Johnson-Laird. 1991). Assuming that a causal mental model is a working memory representation of real (or imaginary) related events (JohnsonLaird.E. then C2 should also prevent E1.. as the result of a process of causal inference (Johnson-Laird. (2004) and about hypothetical direct and indirect causal relationships. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 243 with those associative theories that assume a direct CS2–US link formed during SOC. see Waldmann. 2001). suggesting that once the causal link between C2 and the eVect is formed. 1997.. this new knowledge seems to be rather independent of the previous knowledge about the relationship between C1 and the same eVect. 2001).” Moreover. allowing the inference that C2 also causes E1.

giving rise to the conditioned response. they stored a “causal mental model” in which they saw C1 and E1 as independent eVects of C2. 2001). A second possibility. From a cognitive causal theory point of view. These Wndings match Wndings from animal and human conditioning tasks and emphasize that similar learning mechanisms are probably at work. Jara et al. as the data of Experiment 1b and 2b convincingly show. In summary. people use by default an independent model rather than a cause chained one.244 E. (2004) and proposed by an anonymous reviewer.. Moreover. 1998) which assume that in a causal scenario where diVerent causes can produce the same eVect. According to this model. participants were aware of all the relationships. additivity or cause directionality. In other words. Waldmann. Whether other factors. It is also important to acknowledge that it is not necessary to express a causal judgment of each relationship. as Experiment 2b demonstrated. In accordance with related research on mediated learning and emergent causal relationships between events never experienced together (Perales et al. this association reXects the inference of a direct causal relationship between C2 and the EVect. this work provides the Wrst demonstration of a reliable second-order conditioning eVect in human causal learning and shows that this second-order learning is independent of the degree of relationships between the Wrst-order cause and the eVect. however. / Learning and Motivation 37 (2006) 230–246 absence of inXuence of this new knowledge upon the relationship between C2 and E1 suggests that participants build or store a diVerent causal model during such training. De Houwer. both C1–E1 and C2–E1 relationships are stored as an independent causal mental model. the results of this research bear out previous Wndings using a mediated learning task (Perales et al. as a product of an underlying stored independent cause mental model. It seems that once the between-events relationship is stored. even though the latter would be more rational. 2004). 2004) and agree with those causal theories (Waldmann & Martignon. 2005. Pineño. & Miller. could also inXuence extinction and the building and storing of the underlying causal mental model in human second-order causal learning. each cause can produce the eVect in an independent way. similarly obtained both . such as instructions. because participants had indicated that they considered C1 a cause of E1 rather than an independent eVect of C2. The Wrst one proposed by Perales et al. 2000. the learning mechanism in causal learning tasks would be the formation of a direct association between the mental representations of CS2 (Cause) and the US (EVect).. as well as the absence of inXuence of extinction of the Wrst causal component upon the second one. The exact nature of the mental model people build and store during SOC remains a question for future research. According to the actual results. as has happened with other well established associative eVects like cue competition (Beckers. there are at least two diVerent possibilities. explaining the emergence of the second-order relationship between the second-order cause and the eVect. could be that participants adopted a “common-cause mental model” in which they saw C2 as a common cause of C1 and E1. it is proposed that during the second-order conditioning task naïve people built an “independent causal mental model” of the situation. The results of experiment 2b are not clearly compatible with this view. remains an open question for further research. the causal chain is no longer necessary. It is important to acknowledge that an independent and additive causal model seems to be a necessary condition to Wnd and explain others eVects. (2004) is that once the causal relationship between C2 and the eVect is formed. This independent causal mental model means that the perceived causal power of each cause to inXuence the eVect seems to be independent of the causal power of the other causes. as Experiment 2a clearly suggests. also reviewed in Perales et al. From an associative point of view.

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