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On the learning and transfer of multi-cue judgement processes Thorngate, Warren

Abstract

Three experiments employing a multiple cue probability learning situation were conducted to determine how multi-cue judgement processes are learned and transferred. Each subject was required to predict one of two responses (yes or no) to questions ostensibly answered by four types of stimulus persons each described by values on two dichotomous dimensions, marital status (married or single) and sex (male or female). In the pretest subjects were required to predict, without feedback, each stimulus person's responses to two such questions which varied in their relatedness. In the learning phase subjects continued to predict responses to only one of the two questions but after each prediction they were given feedback about its correctness. In the estimation phase subjects were required to estimate the proportion of yes responses given by each of the four types of stimulus person (married males, married females, single males and single females) and by each of the four stimulus characteristics (marrieds, singles, males and females) on the basis of feedback received in the learning phase. In the posttest subjects were again required to predict, without feedback, each stimulus person's responses to the two questions in the pretest. Each of the three experiments varied the proportion of yes responses given by the four stimulus types. Half the subjects in Experiment I learned and estimated proportions that varied as a function of a main effect of one stimulus dimension (an Additive function), the remainder learned and estimated proportions that varied as a function of the interaction between both stimulus dimensions (an Interactive function). All subjects in Experiment II learned and estimated proportions that varied as a function of the main effect of one stimulus dimension and the interaction between both stimulus dimensions (a Composite function). And all subjects in Experiment III learned and estimated proportions that varied as a function of the main effects of both stimulus dimensions (a Compound function). The results of Experiment I indicated that the Interactive function was learned at an almost identical rate as the Additive function. This supported a class of learning models which assumed that both functions were learned by associating responses with stimulus types or configurations, rather than by associating responses with stimulus characteristics or dimensions. The results of Experiment II indicated that the interaction component of the Composite function was learned more slowly than its main effect. This supported a class of judgement models which assumed that when responses to a stimulus type had not yet been learned, predictions about this type were made by extrapolating from similar stimulus types with learned associations. The results of Experiment III indicated that parameters of the extrapolation process underwent significant changes over time. Over all three experiments the time taken to estimate the proportion of yes responses to each stimulus type was shorter than the time taken to estimate the proportion of yes responses to each stimulus characteristic. However, over all three experiments, the variability of the stimulus type estimates was greater than the variability of the stimulus characteristic estimates. These results gave additional support to the hypothesis that the functions were learned cell-by-cell rather than dimension-by-dimension. It was hypothesized that in the posttest phase of all experiments the judgement process used to predict responses to the question in the learning phase would be transferred to a second question to the extent that the two questions were related in the pretest. Though attempts were made to vary the strength of the pretest relationship by an a priori selection of question pairs, pretest responses to all questions were found to be virtually unrelated to one another. However, in the posttest, the relationships of responses to all question pairs increased, and attained a rank order of strengths originally predicted by the a_ priori selection of questions. A transfer model, similar to the judgement model tested in Experiments II and III, was proposed to account for this finding.

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