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On elemental and configural models of associative learning
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution. CUNY, USA.
2015 (English)In: Journal of mathematical psychology (Print), ISSN 0022-2496, E-ISSN 1096-0880, Vol. 64-65, 8-16 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The elemental and configural approaches to associative learning are considered fundamentally distinct, with much theoretical and empirical work devoted to determining which one can better account for empirical data. Elemental models assume that each perceptual element is capable of acquiring associative strength independently of other elements. Configural models, on the other hand, assume that associative strength accrues to percepts as wholes. Here I derive a necessary and sufficient condition for an elemental and a configural model to be equivalent, i.e., to always make the same predictions. I then ask when the condition can be fulfilled. I show that it is always possible to construct a configural model equivalent to a given elemental model, provided we broaden somewhat the customary definition of a configural model. Constructing an elemental model equivalent to a given elemental one is possible provided the generalization function of the configural model is positive definite. The latter condition is satisfied by existing configural models. The arguments leading to these conclusions clarify the relationship between elemental and configural models, and show that both approaches have heuristic value for associative learning theory.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 64-65, 8-16 p.
Keyword [en]
Associative learning, Elemental model, Configural model
National Category
Mathematics Psychology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-117043DOI: 10.1016/ 000352175900002OAI: diva2:812281


Available from: 2015-05-18 Created: 2015-05-06 Last updated: 2015-05-18Bibliographically approved

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