In three experiments rats were given serial preexposure to two flavor stimuli. In Experiment 1, some animals were given exposure to AX followed by the presentation of BX, a forward schedule; the others were given backward preexposure (BX→AX). Conditioning and test trials with the A element showed that salience or effectiveness of A was better protected in the forward than in the backward condition. Experiments 2 and 3 assessed the relevance of this salience modulation mechanism for perceptual learning. In these experiments, generalization of a conditioned aversion from AX to BX was reduced in the forward (but not in the backward) condition only after prolonged exposure, indicating that the establishment of an inhibitory link from B to A is required for successful discrimination. However, generalization to a novel compound stimulus, NX, was reduced in the forward group both after short and long preexposure, suggesting the existence of salience modulation processes that work in parallel with associative inhibition. These results seem to support the existence of a salience modulation mechanism that seems to be beyond the scope of current theories of perceptual learning.