Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Extinction of Goal Tracking Also Eliminates the Conditioned Reinforcing Effects of an Appetitive Conditioned Stimulus

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Extinction of Goal Tracking Also Eliminates the Conditioned Reinforcing Effects of an Appetitive Conditioned Stimulus

Article excerpt

Abstract Previous studies have suggested that the effects of extinction are response-specific. The present study investigated whether an extinction treatment that eliminated goal tracking elicited by an appetitive conditioned stimulus (CS) would also eliminate the conditioned reinforcing effects of that CS. Rats were first trained on a goal-tracking procedure in which an auditory CS was paired with a food unconditioned stimulus. Animals learned to approach the location where the food was delivered. In a subsequent phase, rats in one group received extinction training that eliminated the goal-tracking elicited by the CS. Rats in the other group did not experience extinction of the food-paired CS. Then, both groups received a test for conditioned reinforcement in which leverpresses resulted in the brief presentation of the stimulus previously paired with food. This stimulus did not act as a conditioned reinforcer in the group that had been subjected to extinction training, but did serve as a conditioned reinforcer in the group that did not experience extinction. These results indicate that the effects of extinction generalize from the approach-eliciting to the conditioned reinforcing effects of an appetitive CS.

Keywords Extinction . Conditioned reinforcement . Goal tracking . Rats

In extinction, a conditioned stimulus (CS; e.g., a tone) is presented without the unconditioned stimulus (US; e.g., food) with which the CS was previously paired. This typically results in a reduction in the frequency or magnitude of the conditioned response (CR; e.g., salivation) elicited by the CS. There are several potential explanations for how extinction produces this decrease in conditioned responding. Perhaps the most intuitive of these is that extinction erases or weakens the CS-US association (Rescorla & Wagner, 1972). Findings such as spontaneous recovery (e.g., Brooks & Bouton, 1994), reinstatement (e.g., Rescorla & Heth, 1975), and context renewal (e.g., Bouton & Bolles, 1979) are problematic for this view, however, since these are all instances in which the CR reappears after extinction seems to have eliminated the CS- US association. An alternative view is that extinction involves the learning of a new inhibitory CS-US association (or CS-no US association), while the original CS-US association is preserved (Bouton, 1994, 2004; Pavlov, 1927). After extinction, presentation of the CS activates the inhibitory CS-US association (or CS-no US association), and therefore the CS does not elicit the CR. However, certain events (e.g., passage of time, change in context) can disrupt or prevent activation of this inhibitory association, and the intact original CS-US association is revealed through a reappearance of the CR.

A third view of how extinction reduces conditioned responding is that an inhibitory CS-CR association is learned during extinction. Several studies have supported this view by showing that the effects of extinction are response-specific (e.g., Bonardi, 1989; Delamater, 1996; Rescorla, 1993). For example, Delamater (Exp. 1, 1996) first trained rats on a procedure in which two CSs, a noise and a light, were each paired separately with a food or sucrose US. After repeated pairings, both CSs came to elicit a magazine approach (goaltracking) CR. Then, the CR elicited by one of the CSs was eliminated through extinction (i.e., the CS was presented without its US), while the other CS was not subjected to extinction. Surprisingly, there was no difference between the two stimuli on a transfer-of-control test in which each CS was superimposed on an operant baseline of leverpressing or chainpulling (for food or sucrose). That is, each CS was equally effective in facilitating operant responding, regardless of whether or not it had been previously extinguished. This and similar results led to the proposal that CS-US associations are preserved through extinction and the observed decrease in CR frequency is the result of an inhibitory stimulus-response association that is response-specific (Colwill, 1991; Delamater, 1996; Rescorla, 1993, 1996). …

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