Animal Cognition

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 215–220 | Cite as

A test of the reward-value hypothesis

  • Alexandra E. Smith
  • Stefan J. Dalecki
  • Jonathon D. Crystal
Original Paper


Rats retain source memory (memory for the origin of information) over a retention interval of at least 1 week, whereas their spatial working memory (radial maze locations) decays within approximately 1 day. We have argued that different forgetting functions dissociate memory systems. However, the two tasks, in our previous work, used different reward values. The source memory task used multiple pellets of a preferred food flavor (chocolate), whereas the spatial working memory task provided access to a single pellet of standard chow-flavored food at each location. Thus, according to the reward-value hypothesis, enhanced performance in the source memory task stems from enhanced encoding/memory of a preferred reward. We tested the reward-value hypothesis by using a standard 8-arm radial maze task to compare spatial working memory accuracy of rats rewarded with either multiple chocolate or chow pellets at each location using a between-subjects design. The reward-value hypothesis predicts superior accuracy for high-valued rewards. We documented equivalent spatial memory accuracy for high- and low-value rewards. Importantly, a 24-h retention interval produced equivalent spatial working memory accuracy for both flavors. These data are inconsistent with the reward-value hypothesis and suggest that reward value does not explain our earlier findings that source memory survives unusually long retention intervals.


Reward value Source memory Spatial memory Episodic memory Rats 



This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health R01MH098985 and National Institute on Aging R21AG044530 to JDC and the support of a Neuroscience Fellowship and the Harlan Scholars Program to AES.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexandra E. Smith
    • 1
  • Stefan J. Dalecki
    • 1
  • Jonathon D. Crystal
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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