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A decision-directed receiver (DDR) uses previous outputs (decisions) to estimate unknown parameters and, on the basis of these estimates, modifies the detector structure for subsequent decisions. Although the DDR is less complex to instrument than other adaptive schemes, inherent in the decision-directed approach is the possibility of a runaway. This occurs when the detector commits a sequence of decision errors resulting in a degradation of parameter estimates, which, in turn, results in a further deterioration of detector performance. Because of the dependencies introduced by the learning process, runaway is difficult to analyze. In this paper, a DDR with unknown a priori probabilities is considered. The priors are estimated by the relative frequency of decisions of that event. For binary detection, it is shown that there is a positive probability of a runaway (the estimates converge to 1 or 0), which equals 1 if the signal-to-noise ratio is below a critical value. A tight bound on the probability of a runaway is obtained by approximating the learning process by a random walk with independent increments. The analysis demonstrates that a runaway is quite improbable even for moderate signal-to-noise ratios. The analysis is extended to multiple signals and to the situation where the estimates of the priors are updated continuously through exponential weighting rather than allowed to converge.