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The elusive nature of the blocking effect: 15 failures to replicate

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Abstract
With the discovery of the blocking effect, learning theory took a huge leap forward, because blocking provided a crucial clue that surprise is what drives learning. This in turn stimulated the development of novel association-formation theories of learning. Eventually, the ability to explain blocking became nothing short of a touchstone for the validity of any theory of learning, including propositional and other nonassociative theories. The abundance of publications reporting a blocking effect and the importance attributed to it suggest that it is a robust phenomenon. Yet, in the current article we report 15 failures to observe a blocking effect despite the use of procedures that are highly similar or identical to those used in published studies. Those failures raise doubts regarding the canonical nature of the blocking effect and call for a reevaluation of the central status of blocking in theories of learning. They may also illustrate how publication bias influences our perspective toward the robustness and reliability of seemingly established effects in the psychological literature.
Keywords
RATS, SOCIAL-BEHAVIOR, ACQUISITION, COMPETITION, EXTINCTION, RECOVERY, STIMULUS, LESIONS, blocking, replicability, associative learning theory, prediction error, surprise, PREDICTION ERRORS, RETROSPECTIVE REVALUATION

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Citation

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MLA
Maes, Elisa et al. “The Elusive Nature of the Blocking Effect: 15 Failures to Replicate.” JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-GENERAL 145.9 (2016): 49–71. Print.
APA
Maes, Elisa, Boddez, Y., Alfei, J. M., Krypotos, A.-M., D’Hooge, R., De Houwer, J., & Beckers, T. (2016). The elusive nature of the blocking effect: 15 failures to replicate. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-GENERAL, 145(9), 49–71.
Chicago author-date
Maes, Elisa, Yannick Boddez, Joaquín Matías Alfei, Angelos-Miltiadis Krypotos, Rudi D’Hooge, Jan De Houwer, and Tom Beckers. 2016. “The Elusive Nature of the Blocking Effect: 15 Failures to Replicate.” Journal of Experimental Psychology-general 145 (9): 49–71.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Maes, Elisa, Yannick Boddez, Joaquín Matías Alfei, Angelos-Miltiadis Krypotos, Rudi D’Hooge, Jan De Houwer, and Tom Beckers. 2016. “The Elusive Nature of the Blocking Effect: 15 Failures to Replicate.” Journal of Experimental Psychology-general 145 (9): 49–71.
Vancouver
1.
Maes E, Boddez Y, Alfei JM, Krypotos A-M, D’Hooge R, De Houwer J, et al. The elusive nature of the blocking effect: 15 failures to replicate. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-GENERAL. 2016;145(9):49–71.
IEEE
[1]
E. Maes et al., “The elusive nature of the blocking effect: 15 failures to replicate,” JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-GENERAL, vol. 145, no. 9, pp. 49–71, 2016.
@article{7241679,
  abstract     = {With the discovery of the blocking effect, learning theory took a huge leap forward, because blocking provided a crucial clue that surprise is what drives learning. This in turn stimulated the development of novel association-formation theories of learning. Eventually, the ability to explain blocking became nothing short of a touchstone for the validity of any theory of learning, including propositional and other nonassociative theories. The abundance of publications reporting a blocking effect and the importance attributed to it suggest that it is a robust phenomenon. Yet, in the current article we report 15 failures to observe a blocking effect despite the use of procedures that are highly similar or identical to those used in published studies. Those failures raise doubts regarding the canonical nature of the blocking effect and call for a reevaluation of the central status of blocking in theories of learning. They may also illustrate how publication bias influences our perspective toward the robustness and reliability of seemingly established effects in the psychological literature.},
  author       = {Maes, Elisa and Boddez, Yannick and Alfei, Joaquín Matías and Krypotos, Angelos-Miltiadis and D'Hooge, Rudi and De Houwer, Jan and Beckers, Tom},
  issn         = {0096-3445},
  journal      = {JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-GENERAL},
  keywords     = {RATS,SOCIAL-BEHAVIOR,ACQUISITION,COMPETITION,EXTINCTION,RECOVERY,STIMULUS,LESIONS,blocking,replicability,associative learning theory,prediction error,surprise,PREDICTION ERRORS,RETROSPECTIVE REVALUATION},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {9},
  pages        = {49--71},
  title        = {The elusive nature of the blocking effect: 15 failures to replicate},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000200},
  volume       = {145},
  year         = {2016},
}

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