Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Sharon A. Mutter (Director), Dr. Steven J. Haggbloom, Dr. Andrew Mienaltowski

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


A relatively new phenomenon in learning research called highlighting occurs when participants show a seemingly irrational preference to attribute a stronger cue-outcome association to a later presented perfect predictor when it is paired with an imperfect predictor than that of an earlier presented perfect predictor paired with the same imperfect predictor (Kruschke, 1996). Current research suggests that the highlighting effect depends on the ability to learn to shift attention away from an irrelevant cue toward a more relevant cue in order to reduce errors in causal judgment and preserve an earlier formed association (Kruschke, 2003). Much research has suggested that older adults have difficulty disengaging attention from irrelevant information, which could be problematic in the highlighting procedure (Cohn, Dustman, & Bradford, 1984; Tipper, 1991; Mutter, Naylor, & Patterson, 2005). However, the results of the current experiment suggest that older adults can learn attentional shifts in order to guide associative learning and reduce errors in causal judgments. These data prove to be a problem for many models of associative learning (e.g., Mackintosh, 1975; Rescorla & Wagner, 1972; Van Hamme & Wasserman, 1994), but support a model proposed by Kruschke (2006).


Cognition and Perception | Cognitive Psychology | Psychology