Studies of incongruent discrimination learning, where the outcome event of one response acts as the discriminative stimulus for the opposite response, suggest that humans rely on habitual stimulus–response (S–R) associations when outcome–response (O–R) associations would cause response conflict. Here, two experiments were conducted to investigate the robustness of this habitual strategy. In Experiment 1, we found that extensive instrumental discrimination training supported learning about the incongruent R → O contingencies, as assessed by an outcome devaluation test. Differential representations of the stimulus and the (associatively retrieved) outcome may have allowed for goal-directed incongruent performance. Experiment 2 failed to provide evidence for this possibility; direct presentation as well as associative retrieval of the incongruent events (by Pavlovian stimuli) activated the response that was associated with each event in its role of stimulus as opposed to outcome. We did find that participants successfully acquired explicit knowledge of the incongruent contingencies, which raises the possibility that propositional encoding allowed them to overcome the response conflict caused by O–R associations. Alternative associative and propositional accounts of successful goal-directed incongruent performance with extensive training will be discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adams, C. D. (1982). Variations in the sensitivity of instrumental responding to reinforcer devaluation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 34B, 77–98.
Balleine, B. W., & Dickinson, A. (1998). Goal-directed instrumental action: contingency and incentive learning and their cortical substrates. Neuropharmacology, 37(4–5), 407–419.
Balleine, B. W., & O’Doherty, J. P. (2010). Human and rodent homologies in action control: corticostriatal determinants of goal-directed and habitual action. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35(1), 48–69. doi:10.1038/npp.2009.131.
Colwill, R. M., & Motzkin, D. K. (1994). Encoding of the unconditioned stimulus in Pavlovian conditioning. Animal Learning & Behavior, 22(4), 384–394.
Colwill, R. M., & Rescorla, R. A. (1985). Instrumental responding remains sensitive to reinforcer devaluation after extensive training. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 11, 520–536.
Colwill, R. M., & Rescorla, R. A. (1988). The role of response-reinforcer associations increases throughout extended instrumental training. Animal Learning & Behavior, 16(1), 105–111.
Corbit, L. H., & Balleine, B. W. (2003). The role of prelimbic cortex in instrumental conditioning. Behavioural Brain Research, 146(1–2), 145–157.
Daw, N. D., Niv, Y., & Dayan, P. (2005). Uncertainty-based competition between prefrontal and dorsolateral striatal systems for behavioral control. Nature Neuroscience, 8(12), 1704–1711.
de Wit, S., Barker, R. A., Dickinson, T., & Cools, R. (2011). Habitual versus goal-directed action control in Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(5), 1218–1229. doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21514.
de Wit, S., Corlett, P. R., Aitken, M. R., Dickinson, A., & Fletcher, P. C. (2009a). Differential engagement of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex by goal-directed and habitual behavior toward food pictures in humans. Journal of Neuroscience, 29(36), 11330–11338. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1639-09.2009.
de Wit, S., & Dickinson, A. (2009). Associative theories of goal-directed behaviour: a case for animal–human translational models. Psychological Research, 73(4), 463–476.
de Wit, S., Kosaki, Y., Balleine, B., & Dickinson, A. (2006). Dorsomedial prefrontal cortex resolves response conflict in rats. Journal of Neuroscience, 26(19), 5224–5229.
de Wit, S., Niry, D., Wariyar, R., Aitken, M. R. F., & Dickinson, A. (2007). Stimulus-outcome interactions during conditional discrimination learning by rats and humans. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 33(1), 1–11.
de Wit, S., Ostlund, S. B., Balleine, B. W., & Dickinson, A. (2009b). Resolution of conflict between goal-directed actions: outcome encoding and neural control processes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 35(3), 382–393. doi:10.1037/a0014793.
de Wit, S., Standing, H. R., DeVito, E. E., Robinson, O. J., Ridderinkhof, K. R., Robbins, T. W., et al. (2012a). Reliance on habits at the expense of goal-directed control following dopamine precursor depletion. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 219, 621–631.
de Wit, S., Watson, P., Harsay, H. A., Cohen, M. X., van de Vijver, I., & Ridderinkhof, K. R. (2012b). Corticostriatal connectivity underlies individual differences in the balance between habitual and goal-directed action control. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(35), 12066–12075.
Dickinson, A. (1980). Contemporary animal learning theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dickinson, A., & Balleine, B. (1994). Motivational control of goal-directed action. Animal Learning & Behavior, 22(1), 1–18.
Dickinson, A., Balleine, B., Watt, A., Gonzalez, F., & Boakes, R. (1995). Motivational control after extended instrumental training. Animal Learning & Behavior, 23(2), 197–206.
Dickinson, A., & de Wit, S. (2003). The interaction between discriminative stimuli and outcomes during instrumental learning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 56B(1), 127–139.
Dwyer, D. M., Dunn, M. J., Rhodes, S. E. V., & Killcross, A. S. (2010). Lesions of the prelimbic prefrontal cortex prevent response conflict produced by action-outcome associations. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63(3), 417–424.
Evans, D. W., Lewis, M. D., & Iobst, E. (2004). The role of the orbitofrontal cortex in normally developing compulsive-like behaviors and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Brain and Cognition, 55(1), 220–234.
Everitt, B. J., Dickinson, A., & Robbins, T. W. (2001). The neuropsychological basis of addictive behavior. Brain Research Reviews, 36(2–3), 129–138.
Gillan, C. M., Papmeyer, M., Morein-Zamir, S., Sahakian, B. J., Fineberg, N. A., Robbins, T. W., et al. (2011). Disruption in the balance between goal-directed behavior and habit learning in obsessive-compulsive disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 168(7), 718–726. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.10071062.
Greve, W. (2001). Traps and gaps in action explanation: theoretical problems of a psychology of human action. Psychological Review, 108, 435–451.
Heyes, C., & Dickinson, A. (1990). The intentionality of animal action. Mind and Language, 5, 87–104.
Hogarth, L., Dickinson, A., Wright, A., Kouvaraki, M., & Duka, T. (2007). The role of drug expectancy in the control of human drug seeking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 33(4), 484–496.
Holland, P. C. (2004). Relations between Pavlovian-instrumental transfer and reinforcer devaluation. Journal of Experimental Psychology-Animal Behavior Processes, 30(2), 104–117.
Holmes, N. M., Marchand, A. R., & Coutureau, E. (2010). Pavlovian to instrumental transfer: a neurobehavioural perspective. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 34(8), 1277–1295. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.03.007.
Hommel, B. (2003). Planning and Representing Intentional Action. The Scientific World Journal, 3, 593–608.
James, W. (1890a). Habit: Henry Holt & Co.
James, W. (1890b). The principles of psychology. New York: Dover Publications.
Killcross, S., & Coutureau, E. (2003). Coordination of actions and habits in the medial prefrontal cortex of rats. Cerebral Cortex, 13(4), 400–408.
Klossek, U. M., & Dickinson, A. (2011). Rational action selection in 1(1/2)- to 3-year-olds following an extended training experience. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 111(2), 197–211. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2011.08.008.
Kosaki, Y., & Dickinson, A. (2010). Choice and contingency in the development of behavioral autonomy during instrumental conditioning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 36(3), 334–342. doi:10.1037/a0016887.
Pavlov, I. P. (1932). The reply of a physiologist to psychologists. Psychological Review, 39, 91–127.
Ridderinkhof, K. R., Forstmann, B. U., Wylie, S., Burle, B., & van den Wildenberg, W. P. M. (2011). Neurocognitive mechanisms of action control: resisting the call of the Sirens. Wylie Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs) Cognitive Science, 2, 174–192.
Seger, C. A., & Spiering, B. J. (2011). A critical review of habit learning and the Basal Ganglia. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 5, 66. doi:10.3389/fnsys.2011.00066.
Shanks, D. R. (1995). The psychology of associative learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thorndike, E. L. (1911). Animal Intelligence: experimental studies. New York: Macmillan.
Tricomi, E., Balleine, B. W., & O’Doherty, J. P. (2009). A specific role for posterior dorsolateral striatum in human habit learning. European Journal of Neuroscience, 29(11), 2225–2232. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06796.x.
Valentin, V. V., Dickinson, A., & O’Doherty, J. P. (2007). Determining the neural substrates of goal-directed learning in the human brain. Journal of Neuroscience, 27(15), 4019–4026.
We would like to thank the undergraduate students who helped to run this study: Abena Dlakavu, Lucy Gledhill, Yi Fan Lim and Paul Wallace. Furthermore, we are grateful to Dr. Mike Aitken and Tarik Barri for programming support.
About this article
Cite this article
de Wit, S., Ridderinkhof, K.R., Fletcher, P.C. et al. Resolution of outcome-induced response conflict by humans after extended training. Psychological Research 77, 780–793 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-012-0467-3
- Congruence Effect
- Discriminative Stimulus
- Discrimination Training
- Response Conflict
- Associative Structure