Learning & Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 357–364 | Cite as

Behavioral momentum and relapse of extinguished operant responding



Previous experiments on behavioral momentum have shown that relative resistance to extinction of operant behavior in the presence of a stimulus depends on the rate of reinforcement associated with that stimulus, even if some of those reinforcers occur independently of the behavior. We present three experiments examining whether the rate of reinforcement in the presence of a stimulus similarly modulates the relative relapse of operant behavior produced by reinstatement, resurgence, and renewal paradigms. During baseline conditions, pigeons responded for food reinforcement on variable-interval 120-sec schedules in alternating periods of exposure to two stimuli arranged by a multiple schedule. Additional response-independent food presentations were also delivered in the presence of one of the multiple-schedule stimuli. Consistent with previous research, baseline response rates were lower in the presence of the stimulus with the added response-independent reinforcement, and relative resistance to extinction was greater in the presence of that stimulus. In addition, following extinction, the relative relapse of responding produced by reinstatement, resurgence, and renewal paradigms was greater in the presence of the stimulus associated with the higher rate of reinforcement. We suggest that a model of extinction from behavioral momentum theory may be useful for understanding these results.


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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUtah State UniversityLogan

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