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Observational evaluative conditioning is sensitive to relational information

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Social learning represents an important avenue via which evaluations can be formed or changed. Rather than learning slowly through trial and error, we can instead observe how another person (a "model") interacts with stimuli and quickly adjust our own behaviour. We report five studies (n = 912) that focused on one subtype of social learning, observational evaluative conditioning (OEC), and how it is moderated by relational information (i.e., information indicating how a stimulus and a model's reactions are related). Participants observed a model reacting positively to one stimulus and negatively to another, and were either told that these reactions were genuine, faked, or opposite to the model's actual feelings. Stimulus evaluations were then indexed using ratings and a personalised Implicit Association Test (pIAT). When the model's reactions were said to be genuine, OEC effects emerged in the expected direction. When the model's reactions were said to be faked, the magnitude of self-reported, but not pIAT, effects was reduced. Finally, stating that the model's reactions were opposite to his actual feelings eliminated or reversed self-reported effects and eliminated pIAT effects. We consider how these findings relate to previous work as well as mental-process theories.
ISSN: 1747-0226
Issue: 11
Volume: 75
Pages: 2043 - 2063
Publication year:2022