Indexed on: 01 Feb '11Published on: 01 Feb '11Published in: Learning & Behavior
Four experiments were performed to explore the role of context in operant extinction. In all experiments, leverpressing in rats was first reinforced with food pellets on a variable interval 30-s schedule, then extinguished, and finally tested in the same and a different physical context. The experiments demonstrated a clear ABA renewal effect, a recovery of extinguished responding when conditioning, extinction, and testing occurred in contexts A, B, and A, respectively. They also demonstrated ABC renewal (where conditioning extinction and testing occurred in contexts A, B, and C) and, for the first time in operant conditioning, AAB renewal (where conditioning, extinction, and testing occurred in contexts A, A, and B). The latter two phenomena indicate that tests outside the extinction context are sufficient to cause a recovery of extinguished operant behavior and, thus, that operant extinction, like Pavlovian extinction, is relatively specific to the context in which it is learned. AAB renewal was not weakened by tripling the amount of extinction training. ABA renewal was stronger than AAB, but not merely because of context A's direct association with the reinforcer.