Because of its reliance on memory, the tendency for rats, mice and other animals to alternate successive choices of T- or Y-maze arms has assumed considerable popularity in pharmacological studies of spatial memory as a quick and simple measure of retention that avoids the need for extensive training and the use of conventional reinforcers. Two forms of this tendency have been utilized, namely two-trial and continuous spontaneous alternation behavior (SAB). However, as the behavior can also reflect drug-related changes in sensory/attentional, motivational and performance processes, SAB should not be unquestionably accepted as a measure of memory alone. While assessments of post-acquisition drug effects on longer term memory may be possible through the appropriate timing of drug administration, this is more problematic if SAB is used as a measure of shorter term memory. Even though SAB can be a useful index of responsiveness to novelty, its value as a measure of retention is less certain. In this latter respect, a possible alternative to SAB testing might be the recently developed form of the related procedure, responsiveness to change.