Temporal Contiguity

Temporal contiguity occurs when two stimuli are experienced close together in time and, as a result an association may be formed. In Pavlovian conditioning the strength of the association between the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the unconditioned stimulus (US) is largely affected by temporal contiguity. In operant conditioning, the association between the operant behavior and the reinforcer/punisher is also largely affected by temporal contiguity. Superstitious behavior occurs as a result of the temporal contiguity between a behavior and a reinforcer/punisher that is independent of that behavior.

You utilize aspects of temporal contiguity each time you make a causal judgment. For example, when your stomach becomes upset, you typically attempt to figure out why. When you are trying to find the cause of your stomach ache, it is more likely that you will place the blame on the Chinese food you ate earlier that afternoon, as opposed to the fast-food you ate the week before. This is because you ate the Chinese food at a time that was closer to the occurrence of your stomach ache.


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