The role of outcome inhibition in interference between outcomes: A contingency-learning analogue of retrieval-induced forgetting


Miguel A. Vadillo, Facultad de Psicología y Educación, Universidad de Deusto, Apartado 1, 48080 Bilbao, Spain (e-mail: ).


Current associative theories of contingency learning assume that inhibitory learning plays a part in the interference between outcomes. However, it is unclear whether this inhibitory learning results in the inhibition of the outcome representation or whether it simply counteracts previous excitatory learning so that the outcome representation is neither activated nor inhibited. Additionally, these models tend to conceptualize inhibition as a relatively transient and cue-dependent state. However, research on retrieval-induced forgetting suggests that the inhibition of representations is a real process that can be relatively independent of the retrieval cue used to access the inhibited information. Consistent with this alternative view, we found that interference between outcomes reduces the retrievability of the target outcome even when the outcome is associated with a novel (non-inhibitory) cue. This result has important theoretical implications for associative models of interference and shows that the empirical facts and theories developed in studies of retrieval-induced forgetting might be relevant in contingency learning and vice versa.