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In 1973 Mackintosh reported an interference effect that he called learned irrelevance in which exposure to uncorrelated (CS/US) presentation of the unconditional stimulus (US) and the conditioned stimulus (CS) interfered with future Pavlovian conditioning. It has been argued that there is no specific interference effect in learned irrelevance; rather the interference is the sum of independent CS and US exposure effects (CS + US). We review previous research on this question and report two new experiments. We conclude that learned irrelevance is a consequence of a contingency learning and a specific learned irrelevance mechanism. Moreover even the independent exposure controls, used in previous experiments to support the CS and US exposure account, provide support for the correlation learning process.

Original publication




Journal article


Q J Exp Psychol B

Publication Date





90 - 101


Animals, Association Learning, Behavior, Animal, Conditioning, Classical, Rats, Rats, Wistar