Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

2012 Edition
| Editors: Norbert M. Seel

A Salience Theory of Learning

  • Duane M. RumbaughEmail author
  • James E. King
  • Michael J. Beran
  • David A. Washburn
  • Kristy Gould
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_956



The perspective that responses are elicited by stimuli to which they have become associated or learned because they are reinforced remains strongly entrenched in psychological thought. Just what reinforcers are and how they operate, perhaps as agents that bond responses to stimuli, are unresolved issues. The most generally accepted definition of a reinforcer is that it is an event that increases the probability that a response will reoccur if it is reinforced. But that definition is circular and does not explain how reinforcement works. Here, we outline a perspective on learning called Salience Theory that offers a process by which learning occurs across instances of stimulus pairings and the resultant sharing of response-eliciting processes that occur.

Theoretical Background

Despite its popularity and robust history, this stimulus–response–reinforcement formulation has inherent weaknesses. How can...

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Preparation of this article was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant HD-38051.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Duane M. Rumbaugh
    • 1
    Email author
  • James E. King
    • 2
  • Michael J. Beran
    • 3
  • David A. Washburn
    • 4
  • Kristy Gould
    • 5
  1. 1.Language Research CenterGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Language Research CenterGeorgia State University, University PlazaAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyGeorgia State University, University PlazaAtlantaUSA
  5. 5.Luther CollegeDecorahUSA