The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Operant and Classical Conditioning

By Frances K. McSweeney; Eric S. Murphy | Go to book overview

4
Prologue to “Habituation:
A History”

Richard F. Thompson

A truly extraordinary symposium on “Habituation” was held at the University of British Columbia in August of 2007, organized by Professor Catherine Rankin. The proceedings of this Symposium were published as a special issue of the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (Rankin, 2009). My chapter “Habituation: A history” is reprinted from this issue (Thompson, 2009, pp. 127–134) with the kind permission of Elsevier Inc. In it, I summarize my views at the time of the Symposium. Thanks to the wide-ranging discussions at the Symposium, we agreed that certain of the nine “properties” of habituation listed in my article required some modifications (see Rankin et al., 2009). I note these briefly here.

Characteristic 1. Rather than just “response” we changed it to “some parameters of the response” and noted that although the decrement is often a negative exponential, other forms, such as linear and biphasic, can also occur.

Characteristic 4. We noted that the more rapid the frequency of stimulation, the more rapid spontaneous recovery may be.

Characteristic 6. We noted that habituation training beyond the asymptotic level may delay the onset of spontaneous recovery.

Characteristic 7. Here the group thought it best to refer to the effect as stimulus specificity rather than stimulus generalization. Personally I prefer stimulus generalization, or more correctly a generalization gradient.

Characteristic 8. We changed “another” stimulus to a “different” stimulus. We noted that sometimes a weak stimulus can dishabituate.

Finally, the group added a new Characteristic 10. Some stimulus repetition protocols may result in properties of the response decrement (e.g., more rapid rehabituation than baseline, smaller initial responses than baseline, smaller mean responses than baseline, less frequent responses than baseline) that last hours, days, or weeks. This persistence of certain aspects of habituation is termed long-term habituation.

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