Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

A Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis of Evaluative Conditioning

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

A Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis of Evaluative Conditioning

Article excerpt

Evaluative conditioning is best defined as an effect, that is, as a change in the valence of a stimulus that results from pairing the stimulus with another stimulus. This definition has several advantages that are made explicit in this paper. One of the advantages is that it clarifies that evaluative conditioning can be due to multiple processes. Therefore, the conditions under which evaluative conditioning is observed can depend on the processes that underlie a particular manifestation of evaluative conditioning. This could explain why there are so many conflicting results about the conditions under which evaluative conditioning can be found. Future research should adopt a meta-conditional approach that focuses not only on whether a certain condition is crucial for obtaining evaluative conditioning but should also examine when a certain condition is crucial.

Keywords: evaluative conditioning, associative learning, attitudes, attitude formation

El condicionamiento evaluativo se define como un efecto, es decir, un cambio en la valencia de un estímulo que resulta de emparejar ese estímulo con otro. Esta definición tiene varias ventajas que se explicitan en este trabajo. Una de las ventajas es que aclara que el condicionamiento evaluativo puede deberse a múltiples procesos. Las condiciones bajo las cuales se observa el condicionamiento evaluativo dependen, concretamente, de los procesos que subyacen a cada manifestación particular del mismo. Esto podría explicar por qué hay tantos resultados conflictivos referidos a las condiciones bajo las cuales se puede encontrar el condicionamiento evaluativo. La investigación futura debe adoptar un enfoque meta-condicional que no solo se centre en si una condición determinada es crucial para obtener el condicionamiento evaluativo, sino que examine también cuándo esa condición es crucial.

Palabras clave: condicionamiento evaluativo, aprendizaje asociativo, actitudes, formación de actitudes

One of the most influential ideas in psychology is that preferences are an important determinant of behavior (e.g., Allport, 1935; Martin & Levy, 1978). To give just a few examples from daily life, people tend to seek the company of persons they like and avoid being in the company of persons they do not like; they buy products that they like more often than those that they do not like; people vote for the politicians that they find sympathetic but not those that repel them; they will pay to do the things they like but need to be paid to do the things that they dislike. Furthermore, preferences influence attention, memory, and judgments, and form the basis of our emotional life. In order to understand, predict, and influence behavior, it is thus crucial to understand how preferences are formed and can be influenced. Evaluative conditioning is generally considered to be one of the approaches to influence liking. Studies on evaluative conditioning have shown that the liking of a neutral stimulus can be changed by pairing it with another, liked or disliked, stimulus. The first stimulus is often called the conditioned stimulus or CS whereas the second stimulus is often called the unconditioned stimulus or US. Typically, a CS will become more positive when it has been paired with a positive US than when it has been paired with a negative US. Well known real-life examples of evaluative conditioning are the "have-a-Coke-and-a-smile" ads of the Coca-Cola Company. In these ads, the Coke brand name (CS) is repeatedly presented together with images of smiling people having fun (US). It is assumed that this will increase the liking of the brand.

Evaluative conditioning has been examined in a large number of studies (see De Houwer, Thomas, & Baeyens, 2001, for an extensive review, and De Houwer, Baeyens, & Field, 2005, for an update). Nevertheless, our understanding of the phenomenon is still very limited. There now is general agreement about the fact that evaluative conditioning is a genuine phenomenon (an agreement that has been reached only recently; see De Houwer, Baeyens, et al. …

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