Model uncertainty in classical conditioning

A. C. Courville, N. D. Daw, G. J. Gordon, D. S. Touretzky

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


We develop a framework based on Bayesian model averaging to explain how animals cope with uncertainty about contingencies in classical conditioning experiments. Traditional accounts of conditioning fit parameters within a fixed generative model of reinforcer delivery; uncertainty over the model structure is not considered. We apply the theory to explain the puzzling relationship between second-order conditioning and conditioned inhibition, two similar conditioning regimes that nonetheless result in strongly divergent behavioral outcomes. According to the theory, second-order conditioning results when limited experience leads animals to prefer a simpler world model that produces spurious correlations; conditioned inhibition results when a more complex model is justified by additional experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems 16 - Proceedings of the 2003 Conference, NIPS 2003
PublisherNeural information processing systems foundation
ISBN (Print)0262201526, 9780262201520
StatePublished - 2004
Event17th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NIPS 2003 - Vancouver, BC, Canada
Duration: Dec 8 2003Dec 13 2003

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
ISSN (Print)1049-5258


Other17th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NIPS 2003
CityVancouver, BC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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