Solving Pavlov's puzzle: Attentional, associative, and flexible configural mechanisms in classical conditioning

Munir Gunes Kutlu, Nestor A. Schmajuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This article introduces a new "real-time" model of classical conditioning that combines attentional, associative, and "flexible" configural mechanisms. In the model, attention to both conditioned (CS) and configural (CN) stimuli are modulated by the novelty detected in the environment. Novelty increases with the unpredicted presence or absence of any CS, unconditioned stimulus (US), or context. Attention regulates the magnitude of the associations CSs and CNs form with other CSs and the US. We incorporate a flexible configural mechanism in which attention to the CN stimuli increases only after the model has unsuccessfully attempted learn input-output combinations with CS-US associations. That is, CSs become associated with the US and other CSs on fewer trials than they do CNs. Because the CSs activate the CNs through unmodifiable connections, a CS can become directly and indirectly (through the CN) associated with the US or other CSs. In order to simulate timing processes, we simply assume that a CS is formed by a temporal spectrum of short-duration CSs that are activated by the nominal CS trace. The model accurately describes 94 % of the basic properties of classical conditioning, using fixed model parameters and simulation values in all simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-291
Number of pages23
JournalLearning and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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