Abnormal Avoidance Learning
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Avoidance of aversive events is of critical importance for an organism’s chances of survival. Many organisms are thought to experience fear in anticipation of an aversive event, such as an electric shock, and tend to show two types of associated behavior. First, they may show “species-specific defensive responses” (SSDR): innate defensive responses such as freezing. Second, they may learn to perform particular actions to reduce or abolish the likelihood of the shock, either cued by a predictive conditioned stimulus (CS: see, e.g., Solomon and Wynne 1953) or performed without the control of a CS (Sidman 1953). Acquisition of the avoidance response is usually enhanced if it is compatible with an SSDR.
The presence of avoidance responses during a CS that predicts an aversive event has been seen as somewhat problematic for models of learning in which action selection was purely driven by...
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