It is generally assumed that the function of contingency learning is to predict the occurrence of important events in order to prepare for them. This assumption, however, has scarcely been tested. Moreover, the little evidence that is available suggests just the opposite result. People do not use contingency to prepare for outcomes, nor to predict their occurrence, although they do use it to infer the causal and predictive value of cues. By using both judgmental and behavioral data, we designed the present experiments as a further test for this assumption.
The results show that—at least under certain conditions—people do use contingency to prepare for outcomes, even though they would still not use it to predict their occurrence. The functional and adaptive aspects of these
results are discussed in the present article.