Is there evidence for unaware evaluative conditioning in a valence contingency learning task?
In three experiments we investigated whether memory-independent evaluative conditioning (EC) and other memory-independent contingency learning (CL) effects occur in the valence contingency task (VCT). In the VCT, participants respond to the valence of a target word that is preceded by a nonword. Across trials, each nonword is mostly combined with either positive or negative targets. Schmidt and De Houwer (2012. Contingency learning with evaluative stimuli. Experimental Psychology, 59, 175–182. doi:10.1027/1618-3169/a000141) showed faster and more often correct responses on trials that conformed to this contingency. Additionally, the authors found EC on valence ratings assessed after the VCT. All effects occurred also in the absence of contingency memory. Our Experiments 1a and 1b replicated the CL effects on measures assessed during the VCT (RT, errors) and showed that they occurred in the absence of contingency memory, but they did not replicate the EC effect assessed after the VCT. In Experiment 2, we tested whether this dissociation between EC and other CL effects was due to the different phases (during vs. after VCT) with a CL measure that could be used in both phases. On this measure, the CL effect was memory-dependent after, but not during the VCT. Across measures and experiments, we thus find memory-independent CL during the VCT, but not afterwards.