A partial reinforcement extinction effect despite equal rates of reinforcement during Pavlovian conditioning

J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 2004 Jul;30(3):240-50. doi: 10.1037/0097-7403.30.3.240.


In 4 experiments rats received appetitive Pavlovian conditioning followed by extinction. Food accompanied every trial with the conditioned stimulus (CS) for the continuously reinforced groups and only half of the trials for the partially reinforced groups. In contrast to previous experiments that have compared the effects of partial and continuous reinforcement, the rate at which food was delivered during the CS was the same for both groups. The strength of the conditioned response during extinction weakened more rapidly in the continuously than in the partially reinforced groups. The results demonstrate that the partial reinforcement extinction effect is a consequence of the nonreinforced trials with the CS, rather than the rate at which the unconditioned stimulus is delivered during the CS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Classical*
  • Extinction, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Reinforcement Schedule*
  • Time Factors