Abstract

Transposition is a tendency for organisms to generalize relationships between stimuli in situations where training does not objectively reward relationships over absolute, static associations. Transposition has most commonly been explained as either conceptual understanding of relationships (Köhler, 1938) as nonconceptual effects of neural memory gradients (as in Spence's stimulus discrimination theory, 1937). Most behavioral evidence can be explained by the gradient account, but a key finding unexplained by gradients is intermediate transposition, where a central (of three) stimulus, “relationally correct response,” is generalized from training to test. Here, we introduce a dynamic neural field (DNF) model that captures intermediate transposition effects while using neural mechanisms closely resembling those of Spence's original proposal. The DNF model operates on dynamic rather than linear neural relationships, but it still functions by way of gradient interactions, and it does not invoke relational conceptual understanding in order to explain transposition behaviors. In addition to intermediate transposition, the DNF model also replicates the predictions of stimulus discrimination theory with respect to basic two-stimulus transposition. Effects of wider test item spacing were additionally captured. Overall, the DNF model captures a wider range of effects in transposition than stimulus discrimination theory, uses more fully specified neural mechanics, and integrates transposition into a wider modeling effort across cognitive tasks and phenomena. At the same time, the model features a similar low-level focus and emphasis on gradient interactions as Spence's, serving as a conceptual continuation and updating of Spence's work in the field of transposition.

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