Sirois, S., & Shultz, T. R. (2006). Preschoolers out of adults: Discriminative learning with a cognitive load. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59, 1357-1377.



This paper explores novel predictions from the spontaneous overtraining interpretation of human discrimination shift learning (Sirois & Shultz, 1998a). Results from six experiments where adults perform a discrimination shift task with or without a cognitive distractor are reported. In three experiments with a concurrent distractor task (Experiments 1A, 2A, and 3A), performance of adults is comparable to what would be expected from preschoolers performing only the learning task. These adults show no dimensional transfer from initial learning, unless new attributes are introduced in shift learning. On the same tasks without a cognitive load (Experiments 1B, 2B, and 3B), performance is typical of normal adults. The discussion focuses on the relative ability of competing theoretical models (i.e., levels of processing, attentional mediation, and perceptual differentiation) to account for these data.


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