Effects of “chained” study on spontaneous relational discovery

AbstractPrior knowledge of relational structure allows people to quickly make sense of and respond to new experiences. When awareness of such structure is not necessary to support learning, however, it is unclear when and why individuals “spontaneously discover” an underlying relational schema. The present study examines the determinants of such discovery in discrimination-based transitive inference (TI), whereby people learn about a hierarchy of interrelated premises and are tested on their ability to draw inferences that bridge studied associations. Experiencing “chained” sequences of overlapping premises during training was predicted to facilitate the discovery of relational structure. Among individuals without prior knowledge of the hierarchy, chaining improved relational learning and was most likely to result in explicit awareness of the underlying relations between items. These findings add to growing evidence that the temporal dynamics of training, including successive presentation of overlapping associations, are key to understanding spontaneous relational discovery during learning.

Return to previous page