Behaviour Research and Therapy vol:30 issue:2 pages:133-142
Two different processes may be operative in human Pavlovian conditioning: signal learning and evaluative learning. Whereas most studies on evaluative conditioning focused on a mere demonstration of the phenomenon or on a theoretical analysis of the underlying processes, some basic parameters of evaluative learning are still unexplored. Hence, using the standard neutral picture-(dis)liked picture pairing paradigm (Baeyens, Eelen & Van den Bergh, 1990), in this study the effect of two parameters of evaluative conditioning was assessed on a between-subjects base, namely the Number of Acquisition Trials (2/5/10/20) and the Presentation Schedule of the stimulus pairs (blockwise or random). Additionally, the study included an exploratory analysis of the potential effects of the Evaluative Style of subjects (Feelers vs Thinkers, operationalized in terms of speed of emitting evaluations). Finally, the relationship between contingency awareness and evaluative learning was reassessed. Neutral-liked conditioning was found to be quadratically related to the number of acquisition trials (increase in effect up to 10 trials, decrease from 10 to 20 trials), whereas neutral-disliked conditioning linearly increased with increasing numbers of trials. Randomized vs blockwise presentation schedules of the stimulus pairs did differentially affect the overall pattern of conditioning, but in a way which was both unexpected and difficult to account for theoretically. Both the Evaluative Style of subjects and contingency awareness were demonstrated to be generally orthogonal to conditioned shifts in CS valence. Based on these findings, some practical suggestions are provided for the application of evaluating conditioning based therapeutical interventions to affective-behavioral disorders which are centred around inappropriate (dis)likes.