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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Review of the Empirical Laws of Basic Learning in Pavlovian Conditioning


Contemporary learning research has provided multiple paradigms that have benefited not only researchers in the field, but also applied theorists and practitioners. However, the emphasis on theory development has made the learning literature almost impenetrable to nonexperts. In the present paper, we attempt to summarize not the different theoretical perspectives that have been proposed to explain different instances of learning, but the empirical relationships that testing of such theories has uncovered. Because the empirical relationships we summarize here hold across preparations and species, we suggest that such relationships should be understood as the empirical laws of basic learning . The focus of our review is the Pavlovian conditioning tradition, but most of these relationships also apply to instrumental learning and causality learning. We hope that the relatively novel organization we present here helps researchers and practitioners to directly incorporate these empirical principles into their current theoretical framework, whatever it may be.

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