David R. Shanks

Professor of Psychology and Head of the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences , University College London

Research Fellow of the ESRC Centre for Economic Learning and Social Evolution


cover of Straight Choices


Ben R. Newell, David A. Lagnado, and David R. Shanks

Straight Choices: The Psychology of Decision Making.

Hove, UK: Psychology Press, 2007.






Contact Information

Division of Psychology and Language Sciences

Tel. (direct): (020) 7679 7588

University College London

Tel. (exec officer): (020) 7679 1016

26 Bedford Way

Fax: (020) 7679 4276

London WC1H 0AP

Code from overseas: +44 20


Electronic mail: d.shanks@ucl.ac.uk

Research Interests

My research interests include human learning and memory; judgment and decision-making; computational modeling, especially with neural network models; amnesia, the hippocampus, and the implicit-explicit distinction; economic psychology and rationality.

My research in the Centre for Economic Learning and Social Evolution, an ESRC Research Centre based at UCL, is concerned with understanding economic learning and behavior, particularly from a rational or Bayesian perspective. In particular, I have focused on several classic issues in judgment and decision making such as multiple-cue learning, base-rate biases, and the rule of extension in probability judgment, and have attempted to provide accounts of these effects using adaptive network models (see Lagnado & Shanks, 2002). Also, I have been looking at the issue of whether learning can in general be studied from an ‘optimal’ perspective. In research with Richard Tunney I used a game-theoretic framework to re-examine people's ability to optimize their payoffs in simple choice tasks (see our 2 papers in JBDM ), and in work with Maarten Speekenbrink, Dave Lagnado, and Ben Newell I have been developing rational models of learning and using them as benchmarks for evaluating decision making and learning.

Causal inference lies at the heart of many aspects of cognition. In work that started with my PhD thesis, I have been investigating links between causal reasoning and elementary associative learning and error detection. A major theoretical goal has been to demarcate the boundaries between associative processes on the one hand and cognitive ones on the other. The edited volume (Shanks, Holyoak, & Medin, 1996) brought together many of the researchers in this area and a recent paper (Shanks, 2007) updates this. My current work on this topic is using formal model-fitting procedures to compare theories of causal and contingency judgment. Also, work led by Paul Fletcher is studying neural correlates of causal and associative learning.

Lastly, the current textbook view of memory proposes that there are multiple systems dealing with different forms of memory: for example, the hippocampus controls ‘declarative’ or ‘explicit’ memory while ‘procedural’ or ‘implicit’ memory depends on other neural systems. I have been working for several years on an alternative and more parsimonious framework which views memory as unitary and which explains dissociations between different memory tests as emerging not from the operation of distinct underlying systems but rather as emergent properties of interactions between memory representations and the tests used to probe them. With Annette Kinder, Chris Berry, Rik Henson and others I have employed computational modelling techniques to simulate memory dissociations using models which employ only a single memory system. The article by Shanks, Channon, Wilkinson, and Curran (2006) describes some of our recent work on implicit learning in organic and pharmacological amnesia. Our latest work involves extending signal detection theory to deal with implicit memory tasks. Alongside this work, several of my papers (e.g., with Andrea Smyth, Lee Rowland, and Leonora Wilkinson) have questioned the notion that learning can occur unconsciously, automatically, or more generally ‘noncognitively’.

Recent & Selected Earlier Publications

Copyright Notice

Some of the documents listed below are available for downloading. These have been provided as a means to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work on a noncommercial basis. Copyright and all rights therein are maintained by the authors or by other copyright holders, notwithstanding that they have offered their works here electronically. It is understood that all persons copying this information will adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. These works may not be re-posted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

Please email me if you would like copies of any of these articles. I also have pdf files of several book chapters which I will be happy to send on request.


Newell, B. R., Weston, N. J., Tunney, R. J., & Shanks, D. R. (2009). The effectiveness of feedback in multiple-cue probability learning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62, 890-908.

Shanks, D. R. (2009). The associative nature of human associative learning. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 32, 225-226.

Shanks, D. R. (in press). Learning: From association to cognition. Annual Review of Psychology.


Berry, C. J., Shanks, D. R., & Henson, R. N. A. (2008). A single-system account of the relationship between priming, recognition and fluency. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 34, 97-111.

Berry, C. J., Shanks, D. R., & Henson, R. N. A. (2008). A unitary signal-detection model of implicit and explicit memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12, 367-373.

Melchers, K. G., Shanks, D. R., & Lachnit, H. (2008). Stimulus coding in human associative learning: Flexible representations of parts and wholes. Behavioural Processes, 77, 413-427.

Perales, J. C. & Shanks, D. R. (2008). Driven by power? Probe question and presentation format effects on causal judgment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 34, 1482-1494.

Shanks, D. R., Lachnit, H., & Melchers, K. G. (2008). Representational flexibility and the challenge to elemental theories of learning: Response to commentaries. Behavioural Processes, 77, 451-453.

Smyth, A. & Shanks, D. R. (2008). Awareness in contextual cuing with extended and concurrent explicit tests. Memory & Cognition, 36, 403-415.

Speekenbrink, M., Channon, S., & Shanks, D. R. (2008). Learning strategies in amnesia. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 32, 292-310.

Weinstein, Y. & Shanks, D. R. (2008). Perceptual representations in false recognition and priming of pictures. Memory & Cognition, 36, 1415-1428.


Corlett, P. R., Murray, G. K., Honey, G. D., Aitken, M. R. F., Shanks, D. R., Robbins, T. W., Bullmore, E. T., Dickinson, A., & Fletcher, P. C. (2007). Disrupted prediction-error signal in psychosis: Evidence for an associative account of delusions. Brain, 130, 2387-2400.

Johansen, M. K., Fouquet, N., & Shanks, D. R. (2007). Paradoxical effects of base rates and representation in category learning. Memory & Cognition, 35, 1365-1379.

Lagnado, D. A. & Shanks, D. R. (2007). Dual concerns with the dualist approach. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 30, 271-272.

Newell, B. R., Lagnado, D. A., & Shanks, D. R. (2007). Challenging the role of implicit processes in probabilistic category learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 505-511.

Newell, B. R., & Shanks, D. R. (2007). Recognizing what you like: Examining the relation between the mere-exposure effect and recognition. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19, 103-118.

Perales, J. C. & Shanks, D. R. (2007). Models of covariation-based causal judgment: A review and synthesis. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 577-596.

Shanks, D. R. (2007). Associationism and cognition: Human contingency learning at 25. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60, 291-309.


Berry, C. J., Henson, R. N. A., & Shanks, D. R. (2006). On the relationship between repetition priming and recognition memory: Insights from a computational model. Journal of Memory & Language, 55, 515-533.

Berry, C. J., Shanks, D. R., & Henson, R. N. A. (2006). On the status of unconscious memory: Merikle and Reingold (1990) re-examined. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 32, 925-934.

Collins, D. J., & Shanks, D. R. (2006). Conformity to the power PC theory of causal induction depends on the type of probe question. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59, 225-232.

Collins, D. J., & Shanks, D. R. (2006). Summation in causal learning: Elemental processing or configural generalization? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59, 1524-1534.

Corlett, P. R., Honey, G. D., Aitken, M. R. F., Dickinson, A., Shanks, D. R., Absalom, A. R., et al. (2006). Frontal responses during learning predict vulnerability to the psychotogenic effects of ketamine: Linking cognition, brain activity, and psychosis. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63, 611-621.

Lagnado, D. A., Newell, B. R., Kahan, S., & Shanks, D. R. (2006). Insight and strategy in multiple cue learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 135, 162-183. Melchers, K. G., Lachnit, H., & Shanks, D. R. (2006). The comparator theory fails to account for the selective role of within-compound associations in cue selection effects. Experimental Psychology, 53, 316-320.

Rowland, L. A., & Shanks, D. R. (2006). Sequence learning and selection difficulty. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32, 287-299.

Rowland, L. A., & Shanks, D. R. (2006). Attention modulates the learning of multiple contingencies. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13, 643-648.

Shanks, D. R., Channon, S., Wilkinson, L., & Curran, H. V. (2006). Disruption of sequential priming in organic and pharmacological amnesia: A role for the medial temporal lobes in implicit contextual learning. Neuropsychopharmacology, 31, 1768-1776.


Melchers, K. G., Lachnit, H., Üngör, M., & Shanks, D. R. (2005). Past experience can influence whether the whole is different from the sum of its parts. Learning and Motivation, 36, 20-41.

Osman, M. & Shanks, D. R. (2005). Individual differences in causal learning and decision making. Acta Psychologica, 120, 93-112.

Perales, J. C., Catena, A., Shanks, D. R., & González, J. A. (2005). Dissociation between judgments and outcome-expectancy measures in covariation learning: A Signal Detection Theory approach. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31, 1105-1120.

Shanks, D. R. (2005). Connectionist models of basic human learning processes. In G. Houghton (Ed.), Connectionist models in cognitive psychology (pp. 45-82). Hove: Psychology Press.

Shanks, D. R. (2005). Implicit learning. In K. Lamberts and R. Goldstone, Handbook of Cognition (pp. 202-220) . London: Sage. Click here for a PDF version.

Shanks, D. R., Rowland, L. A., & Ranger, M. S. (2005). Attentional load and implicit sequence learning. Psychological Research, 69, 369-382.

Winman, A., Wennerholm, P., Juslin, P., & Shanks, D. R. (2005). Evidence for rule-based processes in the inverse base-rate effect. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58A, 789-815.


Corlett, P. R., Aitken, M. R. F., Dickinson, A., Shanks, D. R., Honey, G. D., Honey, R. A. E., Robbins, T. W., Bullmore, E. T., & Fletcher, P. C. (2004). Prediction error during retrospective revaluation of causal associations in humans: fMRI evidence in favor of an associative model of learning. Neuron, 44, 877-888.

Melchers, K. G., Lachnit, H., & Shanks, D. R. (2004). Past experience influences the processing of stimulus compounds in human Pavlovian conditioning. Learning and Motivation, 35, 167-188.

Melchers, K. G., Lachnit, H., & Shanks, D. R. (2004). Within-compound associations in retrospective revaluation and in direct learning: A challenge for comparator theory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 56B, 25-53.

Newell, B. R., Rakow, T., Weston, N. J., & Shanks, D. R. (2004). Search strategies in decision-making: The success of ‘success'. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 17, 117-137.

Newell, B. R., & Shanks, D. R. (2004). On the role of recognition in decision-making. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 923-935.

Shanks, D. R. (2004). Judging covariation and causation. In D. J. Koehler & N. Harvey (Eds.), Handbook of judgment and decision making (pp. 220-239). Oxford: Blackwell.

Turner, D. C., Aitken, M. R. F., Shanks, D. R., Sahakian, B. J., Robbins, T. W., Schwarzbauer, C., & Fletcher, P. C. (2004). The role of the lateral frontal cortex in causal associative learning: Exploring preventative and super-learning. Cerebral Cortex, 14, 872-880.

Wilkinson, L., & Shanks, D. R. (2004). Intentional control and implicit sequence learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 354-369.


Kinder, A. & Shanks, D. R. (2003). Neuropsychological dissociations between priming and recognition: A single-system connectionist account. Psychological Review, 110, 728-744.

Lagnado, D. & Shanks, D. R. (2003). The influence of hierarchy on probability judgment. Cognition, 89, 157-78.

Shanks, D. R. (2003). Attention and awareness in “implicit” sequence learning. In L. Jiménez (Ed.), Attention and implicit learning (pp. 11-42). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Tunney, R. J. & Shanks, D. R. (2003). Subjective measures of awareness and implicit cognition. Memory & Cognition, 31, 1060-1071.

Tunney, R. J. & Shanks, D. R. (2003). Does opposition logic provide evidence for conscious and unconscious processes in artificial grammar learning? Consciousness and Cognition, 12, 201-218.


Lovibond, P. F. & Shanks, D. R. (2002). The role of awareness in Pavlovian conditioning: Empirical evidence and theoretical implications. Journal of Experimental: Animal Behavior Processes, 28, 3-26.

Fletcher, P. C., Anderson, J. M., Shanks, D. R., Honey, R., Carpenter, T. A., Donovan, T., Papadakis, N., & Bullmore, E. T. (2001). Responses of human frontal cortex to surprising events are predicted by formal associative learning theory. Nature Neuroscience, 4, 1043-1048.

Kinder, A. & Shanks, D. R. (2001). Amnesia and the declarative/procedural distinction: A recurrent network model of classification, recognition, and repetition priming. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 13, 648-669.

Shanks, D. R. (1999). Outstanding performers: Created, not born? Science Spectra, Issue 18, 28-34. Click here for an HTML version.

Lamberts, K. & Shanks, D. (Eds.) (1997). Knowledge, Concepts, and Categories. Hove: Psychology Press.

Shanks, D. R. (Ed). (1997). Human Memory: A Reader. London: Arnold.

Shanks, D. R. Holyoak, K. J., & Medin, D. L. (Eds.) (1996). The Psychology of Learning and Motivation (Vol. 34): Causal Learning. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Shanks, D. R. (1995). The psychology of associative learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shanks, D. R. & St. John, M. F (1994). Characteristics of dissociable human learning systems. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 17, 367-447. Click here for an HTML version.

Back to top

Last Revised: June 19, 2009