Evidence for a transitional period for development of persistence in infant rats

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Conducted 4 experiments with a total of 188 rat pups to test the hypothesis that rat pups can learn persistence at age 11 days but cannot express this learning in their behavior until they are a few days older. Exp I used a space-trial procedure to investigate the relative reinforcing effects of milk suckling, dry suckling, and contact without suckling at ages 11 and 14 days. Exp II used the Exp I procedure, manipulating schedule of reward at 2 ages and under 2 of the reward conditions. Exp III manipulated the dry suckling reward schedule in 11- and 14-day-old pups. Exp IV manipulated partial and continuous reinforcement on Day 11 but tested for persistence on Day 14. Results suggest the existence of a traditional period in neonatal rats for the learning of persistence. Partial reinforcement training with suckling on an anesthetized dam as reward induced greater persistence in extinction of the approach response than did continuous reinforcement in rat pups 14 days old but not in 11-day-old pups. Other aspects of this period of development are discussed. (26 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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