Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 162
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Augusto, Luis M. 2016. Lost in dissociation: The main paradigms in unconscious cognition. Consciousness and Cognition, Vol. 42, p. 293.

    Cao, Jack and Banaji, Mahzarin R. 2016. The base rate principle and the fairness principle in social judgment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 113, Issue. 27, p. 7475.

    Colagiuri, Ben and Livesey, E. J. 2016. Contextual cuing as a form of nonconscious learning: Theoretical and empirical analysis in large and very large samples. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,

    Connor, David A. and Gould, Thomas J. 2016. The role of working memory and declarative memory in trace conditioning. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory,

    Dymond, Simon Molet, Mikael and Davies, Lynette 2016. The impact of arbitrarily applicable relational responding on evaluative learning about hypothetical money and shock outcomes. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, p. 1.

    Eder, Andreas B. and Dignath, David 2016. Influence of verbal instructions on effect-based action control. Psychological Research,

    Fineberg, S. K. and Corlett, P. R. 2016. The doxastic shear pin: delusions as errors of learning and memory. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Vol. 21, Issue. 1, p. 73.

    Harvie, Daniel S. Meulders, Ann Madden, Victoria J. Hillier, Susan L. Peto, Daniela K. Brinkworth, Russell and Moseley, G. Lorimer 2016. When touch predicts pain: predictive tactile cues modulate perceived intensity of painful stimulation independent of expectancy. Scandinavian Journal of Pain, Vol. 11, p. 11.

    Hütter, Mandy and Klauer, Karl Christoph 2016. Applying processing trees in social psychology. European Review of Social Psychology, Vol. 27, Issue. 1, p. 116.

    Lenaert, Bert van de Ven, Vincent Kaas, Amanda L. and Vlaeyen, Johan W.S. 2016. Generalization on the Basis of Prior Experience Is Predicted by Individual Differences in Working Memory. Behavior Therapy, Vol. 47, Issue. 1, p. 130.

    Lutchyn, Yuliya A. and Faber, Ronald J. 2016. A New Look at Associative Learning in Advertising: Can Messages Influence Contextual Associations?. Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, Vol. 37, Issue. 1, p. 28.

    Madden, Victoria J. Bellan, Valeria Russek, Leslie N. Camfferman, Danny Vlaeyen, Johan WS. and Moseley, G Lorimer 2016. Pain by association? Experimental modulation of human pain thresholds using classical conditioning. The Journal of Pain,

    Mandelbaum, Eric 2016. Attitude, Inference, Association: On the Propositional Structure of Implicit Bias. Noûs, Vol. 50, Issue. 3, p. 629.

    Mertens, Gaëtan Raes, An K. and De Houwer, Jan 2016. Can prepared fear conditioning result from verbal instructions?. Learning and Motivation, Vol. 53, p. 7.

    Mertens, Gaëtan and De Houwer, Jan 2016. Potentiation of the startle reflex is in line with contingency reversal instructions rather than the conditioning history. Biological Psychology, Vol. 113, p. 91.

    Mertens, Gaëtan and De Houwer, Jan 2016. The impact of a context switch and context instructions on the return of verbally conditioned fear. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Vol. 51, p. 10.

    Mertens, Gaëtan Kuhn, Manuel Raes, An K. Kalisch, Raffael De Houwer, Jan and Lonsdorf, Tina B. 2016. Fear expression and return of fear following threat instruction with or without direct contingency experience. Cognition and Emotion, Vol. 30, Issue. 5, p. 968.

    Perruchet, Pierre Grégoire, Laurent Aerts, Kevin and Poulin-Charronnat, Bénédicte 2016. Dissociating conscious expectancies from automatic-link formation in an electrodermal conditioning paradigm. Psychological Research, Vol. 80, Issue. 4, p. 581.

    Quinn, Veronica Frances and Colagiuri, Ben 2016. Sources of Placebo-Induced Relief From Nausea. Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 78, Issue. 3, p. 365.

    Seabrooke, Tina Hogarth, Lee and Mitchell, Chris J. 2016. The propositional basis of cue-controlled reward seeking. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, p. 1.


The propositional nature of human associative learning

  • Chris J. Mitchell (a1), Jan De Houwer (a2) and Peter F. Lovibond (a3)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 April 2009

The past 50 years have seen an accumulation of evidence suggesting that associative learning depends on high-level cognitive processes that give rise to propositional knowledge. Yet, many learning theorists maintain a belief in a learning mechanism in which links between mental representations are formed automatically. We characterize and highlight the differences between the propositional and link approaches, and review the relevant empirical evidence. We conclude that learning is the consequence of propositional reasoning processes that cooperate with the unconscious processes involved in memory retrieval and perception. We argue that this new conceptual framework allows many of the important recent advances in associative learning research to be retained, but recast in a model that provides a firmer foundation for both immediate application and future research.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

F. Baeyens , P. Eelen & den Van O Bergh . (1990a) Contingency awareness in evaluative conditioning: A case for unaware affective-evaluative learning. Cognition and Emotion 4:318.

T. Beckers , R. R. Miller , J. De Houwer , & K Urushihara . (2006) Reasoning rats: Forward blocking in Pavlovian animal conditioning is sensitive to constraints of causal inference. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 135:92102.

A. Blaisdell , K. Sawa , K. J. Leising & M. R Waldmann . (2006) Causal reasoning in rats. Science 311:1020–22.

R. C. Bolles & M. S Fanselow . (1980) A perceptual-recuperative model of fear and pain. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3:291323.

M. E Bouton . (1993) Context, time, and memory retrieval in the interference paradigms of Pavlovian learning. Psychological Bulletin 114:8099.

M. D. S Braine . (1978) On the relation between the natural logic of reasoning and standard logic. Psychological Review 85:121.

N. Chater , J. B. Tenenbaum & A Yuille . (2006) Probabilistic models of cognition: Conceptual foundations. Trends in Cognitive Science 10:287–91.

P. W Cheng . (1997) From covariation to causation: A causal power theory. Psychological Review 104:367405.

D. M Clark . (2004) Developing new treatments: On the interplay between theories, experimental science and clinical innovation. Behavior Research and Therapy 42:1089–104.

N. S. Clayton & A Dickinson . (1998) Episodic-like memory during cache recovery by scrub jays. Nature 395:272–74.

D. M Colgan . (1970) Effect of instructions on the skin conductance response. Journal of Experimental Psychology 86:108–12.

S. W. Cook & R. E Harris . (1937) The verbal conditioning of the galvanic skin reflex. Journal of Experimental Psychology 21:202–10.

M. E Dawson . (1970) Cognition and conditioning: Effects of masking the CS-UCS contingency on human GSR classical conditioning. Journal of Experimental Psychology 85:389–96.

M. E. Dawson & M. A Biferno . (1973) Concurrent measurement of awareness and electrodermal classical conditioning. Journal of Experimental Psychology 101:5562.

J. De Houwer , (2009) The propositional approach to associative learning as an alternative for association formation models. Learning and Behavior 37:120.

J. De Houwer , S. Thomas , & F Baeyens . (2001) Associative learning of likes and dislikes: A review of 25 years of research on human evaluative conditioning. Psychological Bulletin 127:853–69.

J. De Houwer , S. Vandorpe , & T Beckers . (2007) Statistical contingency has a different impact on preparation judgements than on causal judgements. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 60:418–32.

A. Dickinson & K. J Brown . (2007) Flavor evaluative conditioning is unaffected by contingency knowledge during training with color–flavor compounds. Learning and Behavior 35:3642.

J. C. Dunn & K Kirsner . (1988) Discovering functionally independent mental processes: The principle of reversed association. Psychological Review 95:91101.

S. Epstein & A Roupenian . (1970) Heart rate and skin conductance during experimentally induced anxiety: The effect of uncertainty about receiving noxious stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 16:2028.

J. St. B. T Evans . (2003) In two minds: Dual process accounts of reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7:454–59.

J. St. B. T Evans . (2008) Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology 59(1):255–78.

E. P. Fulcher & M Hammerl . (2001) When all is revealed: A dissociation between evaluative learning and contingency awareness. Consciousness and Cognition 10:524–49.

G. Gigerenzer & U Hoffrage . (1995) How to improve Bayesian reasoning without instruction: Frequency formats. Psychological Review 102:684704.

R Henson . (2006) Forward inference using functional neuroimaging: Dissociations versus associations. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10:6469.

D. L Hintzman . (1986) Schema abstraction in a multiple-trace memory model. Psychological Review 93:411–28.

P. C Holland . (1990) Event representation in Pavlovian conditioning: Image and action. Cognition 37:105–31.

M. S. Jog , Y. Kubota , C. I. Connolly , V. Hillegaart & A. M Graybiel . (1999) Building neural representations of habits. Science 286:1745–49.

D. M. Karazinov & R. A Boakes . (2007) Second order conditioning in human predictive judgments when there is little time to think. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 60:448–60.

E. S. Katkin , S. Wiens & A Öhman . (2001) Nonconscious fear conditioning, visceral perception, and the development of gut feelings. Psychological Science 12:366–70.

J. K Kruschke . (2006) Locally Bayesian learning with applications to retrospective revaluation and highlighting. Psychological Review 113:677–99.

D. A. Lagnado & D. R Shanks . (2002) Probability judgment in hierarchical learning: A conflict between predictiveness and coherence. Cognition 83:81112.

D. A. Lagnado , M. R. Waldmann , Y. Hagmayer & S. A Sloman . (2007) Beyond covariation: Cues to causal structure. In: Causal learning: Psychology, philosophy, and computation, ed. A. Gopnik & L. Schulz , pp. 154–72. Oxford University Press.

J. E. Le Doux . (2000) Emotion circuits in the brain. Annual Review of Neuroscience 23:155–84.

F. J. López , P. L. Cobos & A Caño . (2005) Associative and causal reasoning accounts of causal induction: Symmetries and asymmetries in predictive and diagnostic inferences. Memory and Cognition 33:1388–98.

N. J Mackintosh . (1975) A theory of attention: Variations in the associability of stimuli with reinforcement. Psychological Review 82(4):276–98.

D Marr . (1982) Vision: A computational investigation into the human representation and processing of visual information. Freeman.

R. G. Menzies & J. C Clarke . (1995) The etiology of phobias: A nonassociative account. Clinical Psychology Review 15:2348.

C. J. Mitchell , P. F. Lovibond & M Condoleon . (2005) Evidence for deductive reasoning in blocking of causal judgments. Learning and Motivation 36:7787.

A Moors . (2007) Can cognitive methods be used to study the unique aspect of emotion: An appraisal theorist's answer. Cognition and Emotion 21:1238–69.

A. Moors & J. De Houwer , (2006) Automaticity: A theoretical and conceptual analysis. Psychological Bulletin 132:297326.

A. Öhman & S Mineka . (2001) Fears, phobias and preparedness: Toward an evolved module of fear and fear learning. Psychological Review 108:483522.

A. Öhman & J. J. F Soares . (1993) On the automatic nature of phobic fear: Conditioned electrodermal responses to masked fear-relevant stimuli. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 102:121–32.

A. Öhman & J. J. F Soares . (1994) “Unconscious anxiety”: Phobic responses to masked stimuli. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 103:231–40.

A. Öhman & J. J. F Soares . (1998) Emotional conditioning to masked stimuli: Expectancies for aversive outcomes following non-recognized fear-relevant stimuli. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 127:6982.

D. A. Parton & L. D DeNike . (1966) Performance hypotheses of children and response to social reinforcement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 4:444–47.

J. M Pearce . (1987) A model for stimulus generalization in Pavlovian conditioning. Psychological Review 94:6173.

J. M. Pearce & M. E Bouton . (2001) Theories of associative learning in animals. Annual Review of Psychology 52:111–39.

J. M. Pearce & G Hall . (1980) A model for Pavlovian learning: Variations in the effectiveness of conditioned but not of unconditioned stimuli. Psychological Review 87:532–52.

O. Pineño , J. C. Denniston , T. Beckers , H. Matute & R. R Miller . (2005) Contrasting predictive and causal values of predictors and of causes. Learning and Behavior 33:184–96.

P. C. Price & J. F Yates . (1993) Judgmental overshadowing: Further evidence of cue interaction in contingency judgment. Memory and Cognition 21:561–72.

N. A. Schmajuk & J. A Larrauri . (2008) Associative models can describe both causal learning and conditioning. Behavioral Processes 77:443–45.

D. R Shanks . (2007) Associationism and cognition: Human contingency learning at 25. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 60:291309.

D. R. Shanks & A Dickinson . (1990) Contingency awareness in evaluative conditioning: A comment on Baeyens, Eelen, and Van den Bergh. Cognition and Emotion 4:1930.

S. A Sloman . (1996) The empirical case for two systems of reasoning. Psychological Bulletin 119:322.

R. J. Stevenson , R. A. Boakes & J Prescott . (1998) Changes in odor sweetness resulting from implicit learning of a simultaneous odor-sweetness association: An example of learned synesthesia. Learning and Motivation 29:113–32.

F. Strack & R Deutsch . (2004) Reflective and impulsive determinants of social behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Review 8:220–47.

R. F. Thompson (2005) In search of memory traces. Annual Review of Psychology 56:123.

M. A. Vadillo & H Matute . (2007) Predictions and causal estimations are not supported by the same associative structure. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 60:433–47.

S. Vandorpe , J. De Houwer , & T Beckers . (2007a) Outcome maximality and additivity training also influence cue competition in causal learning when learning involves many cues and events. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 60:356–68.

M. R. Waldmann & J. M Walker . (2005) Competence and performance in causal learning. Learning and Behavior 33:211–29.

S. G. Wardle , C. J. Mitchell & P. F Lovibond . (2007) Flavor evaluative conditioning and contingency awareness. Learning and Behavior 35:233–41.

T. D. Wilson , S. Lindsey & T. Y Schooler . (2000) A model of dual attitudes. Psychological Review 107:101–26.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *