A theory of context in discrimination learning

Douglas L. Medin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Discrimination learning is a fundamental concept in psychology. At an initial stage in any theoretical analysis of discrimination learning, two fundamental issues arise, namely, the subjects learned when an organism masters a discrimination, and how the stimulus situation should be described. Both of these issues provoke a number of related issues, answers to which represent key choice points in theory construction. This chapter briefly reviews current discrimination-learning theories in light of these two issues, with the aim of demonstrating an important weakness in them. A new theory is presented to address these weaknesses and drawing on concepts from research on memory, processes are presented and their predictions assessed. Finally, some modifications of the theory designed to account for phenomena from research on selective attention in learning is developed and evaluated. The context model presented in the chapter succeeds in predicting performance in various problem formats without altering any basic assumptions, and with the addition of assumptions concerning attention, corresponds very well with data on selective learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-314
Number of pages52
JournalPsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Jan 1 1975

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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