, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 451-457

Reductions in resistance to extinction and spontaneous recovery as a function of changes in transportational and contextual stimuli

Abstract

Thirty rats received 10 sessions of baseline training in which leverpressing was reinforced according to a variable-interval (VI) 60-sec schedule. Twenty-four of the subjects were then assigned to one of four groups that received five sessions of extinction, with groups being differentiated in a 2 by 2 factorial design on the basis of: (1) changes in stimuli accompanying transportation of subjects from home cages to the laboratory and placement in the apparatus, and/or (2) changes in contextual stimuli within the apparatus. During the sixth session of extinction, the transportational and contextual stimuli previously associated with baseline training were reinstated. The remaining six rats experienced changes in both transportational and contextual stimuli but were maintained on the VI 60-sec schedule of reinforcement. Changes in either transportational or contextual stimuli reduced resistance to extinction and spontaneous recovery, and substantial increments in responding occurred upon reinstatement of the transportational and contextual stimuli associated with baseline training. Evidence for summation of the two sources of stimulus change was obtained. Changes in transportational and contextual stimuli produced only a brief disruption in responding when reinforcement of leverpressing was continued.

This research was supported by a Faculty grant from Mount Holyoke College and NIMH Grant 1 RO3 MH28552-01 awarded to R.L.W. The experiment was conducted as an honors thesis by K. McA. in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a B.A. in psychology.