Since the very earliest experimental investigations of learning, tension has existed between association-based and cognitive theories. Associationism accounts for the phenomena of both conditioning and “higher” forms of learning via concepts such as excitation, inhibition, and reinforcement, whereas cognitive theories assume that learning depends on hypothesis testing, cognitive models, and propositional reasoning. Cognitive theories have received considerable impetus in regard to both human and animal learning from recent research suggesting that the key illustration of cue selection in learning, blocking, often arises from inferential reasoning. At the same time, a dichotomous view that separates noncognitive, unconscious (implicit) learning from cognitive, conscious (explicit) learning has gained favor. This review selectively describes key findings from this research, evaluates evidence for and against associative and cognitive explanatory constructs, and critically examines both the dichotomous view of learning as well as the claim that learning can occur unconsciously.