Mechanisms of Renewal After the Extinction of Instrumental Behavior

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Four experiments with rats examined renewal of extinguished instrumental behavior when the reinforcement histories of the contexts were equated by giving complementary training and extinction of a different response (lever press and chain pull) in each context. In Experiments 1 through 3, renewal occurred when the response was tested in the acquisition context (ABA) or outside the extinction context (AAB and ABC). Further, in Experiments 1 through 3, when both responses were simultaneously available, there was a clear preference for the response that was not in its extinction context. In Experiment 4, renewal was not reduced when testing occurred in a context that had been associated with extinction of the other instrumental response. The experimental designs rule out differential context–reinforcer associations being the only contributing mechanism of renewal, and also raise questions about configural and occasion-setting accounts. The results are consistent with the idea that during extinction an inhibitory association is formed between the context and the response.

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