The interaction between discriminative stimuli and outcomes during instrumental learning

Q J Exp Psychol B. 2003 Feb;56(1):127-39. doi: 10.1080/02724990244000223.


Rats were trained on a biconditional discrimination in which the delivery of a food pellet stimulus signalled that pressing on one of two levers would be reinforced, whereas the delivery of a sucrose solution stimulus signalled that the reward was contingent on pressing the other lever. The outcome was the same food type as the discriminative stimulus in the congruent group but the other food type in the incongruent group. Both responses were rewarded with the same outcome in the same group. All the three groups learned the discrimination at statistically indistinguishable rates. Prefeeding one of the outcomes selectively reduced the associated response thereby demonstrating that responding was mediated by a representation of the outcome. Moreover, the outcome of one trial controlled responding on the next trial in accord with the stimulus function of the food type. These results are discussed in relation to the associative structures mediating the discriminative control of instrumental performance.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning*
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Reaction Time