Generalization of causal efficacy judgments after evaluative learning

Charlotte Dack, Louise McHugh, Phil Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (SciVal)


In three experiments, we examined the effect of response-outcome relations on human ratings of causal efficacy and demonstrated that such efficacy ratings transfer to novel situations through derived stimulus relations. Causal efficacy ratings were higher, and probability of an outcome given a response was lower, for a differential reinforcement of high rate schedule than for either a differential reinforcement of low rate schedule (Experiment 1) or a variable interval schedule (Experiment 2). In Experiment 3, we employed schedules that were equated for outcome probability and noted that ratings of causal efficacy and the rate of response were higher on a variable ratio than on a variable interval schedule. For participants in all three experiments, causal efficacy ratings transferred to the stimulus present during each schedule and generalized to novel stimuli through derived relations. The results corroborate the view that schedules are a determinant of both response rates and causal efficacy ratings. In addition, the novel demonstration of a mechanism of generalization of these ratings via derived relations has clinical implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-48
Number of pages13
JournalLearning and Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Association Learning
  • Causality
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Female
  • Generalization (Psychology)
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Reinforcement Schedule


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