Human contingency learning was used to compare the predictions of configural and elemental theories. In three experiments, participants were required to learn which indicators were associated with an increase in core temperature of a fictitious nuclear plant. Experiments 1 and 2 investigated the rate at which a triple-element stimulus (ABC) could be discriminated from either single-element stimuli (A, B, and C) or double-element stimuli (AB, BC, and AC). Experiment 1 used visual stimuli, whilst Experiment 2 used visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli. In both experiments the participants took longer to discriminate the triple-element stimulus from the more similar double-element stimuli than from the less similar single-element stimuli. Experiment 3 tested for summation with stimuli from either single or multiple modalities and summation was found only in the latter. Thus the pattern of results seen in Experiments 1 and 2 was not dependent on whether the stimuli were single- or multi-modal nor was it dependent on whether the stimuli could elicit summation. This pattern of results is consistent with the predictions of Pearce’s (1987) configural theory
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