Temporal and Spatial Contiguity Are Necessary for Competition Between Events

Estibaliz Herrera, José A. Alcalá, Toru Tazumi, Matthew G. Buckley, José Prados, Gonzalo P. Urcelay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last 50 years, cue competition phenomena have shaped theoretical developments in animal and human learning. However, recent failures to observe competition effects in standard conditioning procedures, as well as the lengthy and ongoing debate surrounding cue competition in the spatial learning literature, have cast doubts on the generality of these phenomena. In the present study, we manipulated temporal contiguity between simultaneously trained predictors and outcomes (Experiments 1–4), and spatial contiguity between landmarks and goals in spatial learning (Supplemental Experiments 1 and 2; Experiment 5). Across different parametric variations, we observed overshadowing when temporal and spatial contiguity were strong, but no overshadowing when contiguity was weak. Thus, across temporal and spatial domains, we observed that contiguity is necessary for competition to occur, and that competition between cues presented simultaneously during learning is absent when these cues were either spatially or temporally discontiguous from the outcome. Consequently, we advance a model in which the contiguity between events is accounted for and which explains these results and reconciles the previously contradictory findings observed in spatial learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-347
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Authors. This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Copyright for this article is retained by the authors. Authors grant the American Psychological Association the exclusive right to publish the article and identify itself as the original publisher

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a United Kingdom Economic and Social Research Council Grant (ES/R011494/2) awarded to Gonzalo P.


  • Contiguity
  • Cue competition
  • Overshadowing
  • Spatial navigation
  • Temporal


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