Skip to main content

Extinction Learning

  • Reference work entry
Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

Synonyms

Inhibitory learning

Definition

Extinction learning refers to the gradual decrease in response to a conditioned stimulus that occurs when the stimulus is presented without reinforcement. The term “extinction” was first used by Ivan Pavlov in reference to his observation that the conditioned response to a cue that predicted food delivery decreased and eventually disappeared when food no longer followed the cue. In Pavlovian fear conditioning, a previously neutral stimulus comes to elicit a fear response through pairing with an aversive reinforcer, such as an electric shock or a loud noise. During extinction, a new association with the stimulus is learned that inhibits the expression of the original fear memory. Extinction learning serves as the foundation of exposure therapy, which is commonly used to treat pathological fear.

Theoretical Background

Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov first documented the phenomenon of extinction in his seminal classical conditioning experiments...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 3,400.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD 2,999.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

References

  • Anderson, K. C., & Insel, T. R. (2006). The promise of extinction research for the prevention and treatment of anxiety disorders. Biological Psychiatry, 60, 319–321.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bouton, M. E. (2004). Context and behavioral processes in extinction. Learning & Memory, 11, 485–494.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned reflexes: An investigation of the physiological activity of the cerebral cortex (trans: Anrep, G. V.). London: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Quirk, G. J., & Mueller, D. (2008). Neural mechanisms of extinction learning and retrieval. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33, 56–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elizabeth A. Phelps .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

About this entry

Cite this entry

Hartley, C.A., Phelps, E.A. (2012). Extinction Learning. In: Seel, N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_306

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_306

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Boston, MA

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-4419-1427-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-4419-1428-6

  • eBook Packages: Humanities, Social Sciences and Law

Publish with us

Policies and ethics