A Model of Attribute Conditioning


  • Christian Unkelbach
  • Sabine Förderer


We present a model of attribute conditioning, the phenomenon that people’s assessment of stimuli’s specific attributes (e.g., a person’s characteristics) changes due to pairings with other stimuli possessing these specific attributes (e.g., another "athletic" person). These changes in attribute assessments go beyond evaluation changes due to these pairings (i.e., evaluative conditioning effects). We provide a short historical overview of the phenomenon and the available data. Then we present a potential mental model of the effect: We assume attribute conditioning to be a form of stimulus-stimulus learning. CS-US pairings establish an enduring referential link between CS and US. We present an associative as well as a distributed memory variant of this referential link. Based on this model, we provide the answers to the specific questions that guide the present special issue. Finally, we discuss the relation of evaluative and attribute conditioning.