International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 5 Num. 3 - November 2005


Transfer of Stimulus Control across Instrumental Responses is attenuated by Extinction in Human Instrumental Conditioning [La Transferencia en el Control de Est?mulos en la Respuesta Instrumental es Atenuada por la Extinci?n en el Condicionamiento Instrumental Humano]

Volume 5 Num. 3 - November 2005 - Pages 265-308


A. Mat?as G?mez and Juan M. Rosas ,


Transfer of behavioral control by a discriminative stimulus (SD) between different instrumental responses trained with the same outcome has been consistently observed in nonhuman animals, regardless of whether the discriminative stimulus and the instrumental response have undergone extinction. Based on this result, it has been proposed that extinction of nonhuman instrumental learning does not affect SD-outcome associations. Two experiments explored whether this was the case in human instrumental conditioning. Both experiments used a video-game task where participants pressed different colored keys to defend Andalusia from the attack of ships and planes. Key-pressing was reinforced with the destruction of the ship or plane. In Experiment 1 removing the response-contingent outcome extinguished the instrumental response, while responding to a non-extinguished response remained high. As in the animal literature, Experiment 2 found positive transfer of an SD between different responses that produce the same outcome, suggesting the formation of a SD-outcome association in human instrumental conditioning. Contrary to what has been found with nonhuman animals, extinction of the response in the presence of the SD eliminated the transfer effect, suggesting that the SD-outcome association is deteriorated in human instrumental extinction

Key words:

Human instrumental conditioning; extinction, contents of learning, transfer test

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