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Preview: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes - Vol 35, Iss 4

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition - Vol 43, Iss 1

The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition® publishes experimental and theoretical studies concerning all aspects of animal behavior processes. Studies of associative, nonassociative, cognitive, perceptual, and motivational pro

Last Build Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2017 00:00:01 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association

Rescaling of temporal expectations during extinction.


Previous research suggests that extinction learning is temporally specific. Changing the conditioned stimulus (CS) duration between training and extinction can facilitate the loss of the conditioned response (CR) within the extinction session but impairs long-term retention of extinction. In 2 experiments using conditioned magazine approach with rats, we examined the relation between temporal specificity of extinction and CR timing. In Experiment 1, rats were trained on a 12-s, fixed CS–unconditional stimulus interval and then extinguished with CS presentations that were 6, 12, or 24 s in duration. The design of Experiment 2 was the same except rats were trained using partial rather than continuous reinforcement. In both experiments, extending the CS duration in extinction facilitated the diminution of CRs during the extinction session, but shortening the CS duration failed to slow extinction. In addition, extending (but not shortening) the CS duration caused temporal rescaling of the CR, in that the peak CR rate migrated later into the trial over the course of extinction training. This migration partially accounted for the faster loss of the CR when the CS duration was extended. Results are incompatible with the hypothesis that extinction is driven by cumulative CS exposure and suggest that temporally extended nonreinforced CS exposure reduces conditioned responding via temporal displacement rather than through extinction per se. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Time, trials, and extinction.


Four experiments investigated the effect of number of trials and total duration of nonreinforced exposure to the conditioned stimulus (CS) on extinction of Pavlovian conditioning. Rats were first trained in a magazine approach paradigm with multiple CSs, each paired with the unconditioned stimulus (US) on a variable CS-US interval. During subsequent extinction, CSs would differ in the number and length of their extinction trials but would be matched for the total duration of exposure (e.g., 1 CS would have 20 trials per session with a mean length of 5 s; another CS would have 5 trials per session with a mean length of 20 s). In each case, extinction proceeded more quickly for the CS given more trials per session. Indeed, there was no difference in rate of extinction between CSs that were matched on number of trials but differed on the duration of each trial, indicating that duration of exposure has no effect on extinction. We discuss the implications of these findings for trial-based and time-based theories of conditioning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Serial pattern learning in pigeons: Rule-based or associative?


Extensive research has documented evidence for rule learning in sequential behavior tasks in both rats and humans. We adapted the 2-choice serial multiple choice (SMC) task developed for use with rats (Fountain & Rowan, 1995a) to study sequence behavior in pigeons. Pigeons were presented with 8 disks arranged in a circular array on a touchscreen, and pecking to an illuminated disk could lead to reward. Correct responding consisted of serial patterns involving “run” chunks of 3 elements (123 234, etc.). Some pigeons experienced a violation of the chunk rule in the final chunk. Unlike rats, pigeons made fewer errors on violation chunks than run chunks, suggesting the use of low-level cues to guide choices. Removal of low-level cues and increasing the number of simultaneously illuminated disks to an 8-choice SMC task resulted in more errors on the violation chunk. Pigeons were able to use the rule when the array of disks was contracted or expanded, and when chunk length was extended to 4 and 5 elements, but not when disks were removed from or added to the array. Pigeons were also able to abstract structure from a “trill” pattern (121 232 etc.), as shown by high error rates on a violation trial. These results suggest that pigeons, like rats and humans, can abstract sequence structure, but do so primarily in the absence of specific low-level feature-based information. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

"Effects of reinforcer distribution during response elimination on resurgence of an instrumental behavior": Correction to Schepers and Bouton (2015).


Reports an error in "Effects of reinforcer distribution during response elimination on resurgence of an instrumental behavior" by Scott T. Schepers and Mark E. Bouton (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 2015[Apr], Vol 41[2], 179-192). The mean R2 responding during the resurgence test in the alternating group in the lower right panel of Figure 4 was incorrect. A corrected figure is given in the correction. (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 2015-12206-001.) Resurgence has commonly been viewed as the recovery of an extinguished instrumental behavior that occurs when an alternative behavior that has replaced it is also extinguished. Three experiments with rat subjects examined the effects on resurgence of the temporal distribution of reinforcement for the alternative behavior that is presented while the first response is being eliminated. Experiments 1 and 2 examined resurgence when rich rates of reinforcement at the onset of response elimination became leaner over sessions (i.e., forward thinning) and when lean rates became richer (i.e., reverse thinning). Both procedures weakened resurgence compared with that in a group that received the richest rate during all sessions. However, forward thinning was more effective than reverse thinning at reducing the resurgence effect. Experiment 3 found that final resurgence was eliminated when the alternative behavior was reinforced and extinguished in alternating response elimination sessions. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that reinforcer delivery during response elimination provides a contextual stimulus for the extinction of the original behavior; its removal during resurgence testing causes ABC renewal to occur. The results are less consistent with an alternative account that emphasizes the removal of response disruption caused by alternative reinforcement (Shahan & Sweeney, 2011). Other theoretical and applied implications are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Habituation and conditioning: Salience change in associative learning.


Repeated presentation of a single stimulus produces habituation—engages a learning process that results in a reduction of the ability of the stimulus to evoke its customary response. Repeated stimulus presentation is a feature of the standard procedure for classical conditioning, although, in this case, subjects experience repeated presentations of 2 stimuli occurring in sequence: S1–S2. We ask how habituation to each of these stimuli (S1 and S2) is influenced by this form of sequential presentation and what implications any effects might have for the understanding of both conditioning and habituation itself. Our review of the experimental evidence demonstrates no clear effect on habituation to S2 of preceding this stimulus with S1. Habituation to S1, however, is attenuated or prevented by the occurrence of S2: Some orienting responses are maintained when S2 follows S1 inconsistently; other responses (habituation of which may be taken to indicate a reduction in the effective salience of the stimulus) are maintained when a salient S2 reliably follows S1. We discuss the implications of these changes in the properties of S1 for associative theories of conditioning and, in particular, for the proposal that the rules that govern changes in the associability of a stimulus differ from those governing changes in its effective salience. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Mechanisms of midsession reversal accuracy: Memory for preceding events and timing.


The midsession reversal task involves a simultaneous discrimination between 2 stimuli (S1 and S2) in which, for the first half of each session, choice of S1 is reinforced and, for the last half, choice of S2 is reinforced. On this task, pigeons appear to time the occurrence of the reversal rather than using feedback from previous trials, resulting in increased numbers of errors. In the present experiments, we tested the hypothesis that pigeons make so many errors because they fail to remember the last response made and/or the consequence of making that response both of which are needed ideally as cues to respond on the next trial. To facilitate memory, during the 5-s intertrial interval, we differentially lit a houselight correlated with the prior response to S1 or S2 and maintained the hopper light when that response was correct. A control group received uncorrelated houselights and no maintained hopper light. To test for continued use of temporal information, both groups received probe sessions in which the intertrial interval was either halved or doubled. Providing relevant reminder cues of the stimulus chosen and its consequence resulted in improved reversal accuracy and reduced disruption from probe sessions compared with irrelevant cues. Nevertheless, despite the reminder cues, the pigeons in both groups appeared to continue to time the point in the session at which the reversal occurred. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Superior ambiguous occasion setting with visual than temporal feature stimuli.


Three experiments with rats compared the relative ease with which different sets of visual or temporal cues could participate in Pavlovian learning. In Experiment 1, 1 group was trained to discriminate between visual cues (Light vs. Dark), whereas the other group learned to discriminate between temporal cues (early [10 s] vs. late [90 s]). Both groups learned to distinguish food-paired from nonpaired periods equally well. In Experiment 2, 2 groups were trained on an ambiguous occasion setting task. For Group Visual, a 2-min Light period signaled that 1 10-s auditory conditioned stimulus, CS1, was reinforced with 1 unconditioned stimulus, US1, but that CS2 was not reinforced; whereas a 2-min dark period signaled that CS1 was not reinforced, but CS2 was reinforced with US2 (i.e., Light: CS1–US1, CS2-; Dark: CS1-, CS2–US2). For Group Temporal, early (10-s) or late (90-s) temporal cues within each of these Light and Dark periods were diagnostic of these contingencies (i.e., Early: CS1–US1, CS2-; Late: CS1-, CS2–US2). Group Visual learned the task, but Group Temporal did not. In Experiment 3 we demonstrated that animals could not solve a related temporal ambiguous occasion setting task in which 1 visual stimulus signaled that both CSs were reinforced early whereas the other visual stimulus signaled that the CSs were reinforced only late. Contrary to a currently popular information theory approach to timing in Pavlovian learning, these results suggest that overt nontemporal visual stimuli are better incorporated into conditional discrimination learning than are temporal stimuli. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Effects of outcome devaluation on instrumental behaviors in a discriminated heterogeneous chain.


Operant behavior often takes place in a sequence, or chain, of linked responses that lead to a reinforcer. We have recently studied rats performing a discriminated heterogeneous behavior chain that involves the presentation of a discriminative stimulus (e.g., a panel light) to set the occasion for a procurement behavior (e.g., a lever press) that leads to a second stimulus (e.g., a second panel light) that indicates that a consumption response (e.g., a chain pull) will be reinforced. The present study assessed the role played by a representation of the reinforcer in controlling the performance of the responses in this chain. After acquisition of the chain, rats received a reinforcer devaluation treatment in the form of repeated paired, or unpaired, presentations of the food-pellet outcome and lithium-chloride illness. Once paired rats came to reject the pellets, half the animals in each group were tested on procurement, and the other half were tested on consumption. Neither response was affected by the outcome devaluation treatment, although entries into the food cup were suppressed. Combined with other results, the findings suggest that the “goal” for goal-directed procurement responding in a discriminated heterogeneous chain may be the consumption response rather than the primary reinforcer. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The quantification of behavior in the presence of compound stimuli.


Animals live in complex environments where multiple cues can provide consistent or conflicting information about how to behave most effectively. Previous research has described how animals combine information with qualitative combination rules; the goal of this article was to quantify the combination rule used by rats when 2 previously trained stimuli of separate modalities were presented simultaneously. Rats in a lever box were trained with 2 stimuli (light and tone) assigned given probabilities of food before they were tested in compound. Changes in the probability of food assigned to each stimulus produced linear changes in the rat’s rate of responding to these stimuli, both when the stimuli were presented individually and in compound. Using a linear regression, 3 features of the stimuli (rate of reinforcement, probability of food, and rate of responding) were compared to see which accounted for behavior in the presence of the compound best; z-scores were used to account for between rat variability. The linear regression allows for direct comparisons to be made regarding what may be combined under these conditions; something many behavioral models cannot. Our analysis suggests that rats weigh each stimulus of the compound differentially. More specifically, they weigh the stimulus that had more frequent changes to the assigned probability of food more than the stimulus whose probability of food remained more consistent across phases of the experiment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Rats show adaptive choice in a metacognitive task with high uncertainty.


Metacognition refers to the use of one’s cognitive processes to coordinate behavior. Many higher cognitive functions such as feeling-of-knowing judgment and theory of mind are thought to be metacognitive processes. Although some primate species also show this ability in the form of behavioral control, a rodent model of metacognition is required for advanced studies of this phenomenon at behavioral, molecular, and neural levels. Here we show that rats could reliably be trained in a metacognitive task. The rats were trained to remember the location of a nose-poke hole and later indicate the location via a behavioral task. Rats had options of either demonstrating their memory or switching to an easier task (escape). Four rats were used in a two-choice metacognitive task, and 3 were used in a six-choice task. In the six-choice task, rats increased the likelihood of receiving a reward by utilizing the option to escape, in exchange for a decrease in the amount of reward received per correct trial. Furthermore, rats escaped more in sample-omitted trials than in standard trials. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that rats have metacognition, and could be utilized as a benchmark for further metacognition studies in rats. However, rats in the two-choice task did not use the escape response adaptively. These results were consistent with those seen in capuchin monkeys. Similarity between rodents and primates in task switching should expand the possibility of comparative studies of metacognition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

A theoretical note in interpretation of the “redundancy effect” in associative learning.


In a recent series of papers, Pearce and colleagues (e.g., Pearce, Dopson, Haselgrove, & Esber, 2012) have demonstrated a so-called “redundancy effect” in Pavlovian conditioning, which is the finding of more conditioned responding to a redundant cue trained as part of a blocking procedure (A+AX+) than to a redundant cue trained as part of a simple discrimination procedure (BY+CY–). This phenomenon presents a serious challenge for those theories of conditioning that compute learning through a global error-term. In this paper, we use the Rescorla and Wagner (1972) model as a prototypical example to demonstrate that the redundancy effect can be accounted for by this class of theories if the experimental stimuli are assumed to share a common component. We also point to some domains in which this approach leads to novel predictions that may deserve empirical evaluation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)