Choice and contingency in the development of behavioral autonomy during instrumental conditioning

J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 2010 Jul;36(3):334-42. doi: 10.1037/a0016887.


In two experiments hungry rats received extensive training to lever press for food outcomes before one outcome was devalued by aversion conditioning and responding tested in extinction. If the rats were trained on a concurrent schedule in which two responses yielded different outcomes, performance during the extinction test was reduced by devaluation of the associated outcome. By contrast, if a single response was trained concurrently with the noncontingent presentations of the other outcome, test performance was insensitive to devaluation of the contingent outcome. This finding demonstrates that training on a schedule that offers a choice between responses that yield different outcomes prevents the onset of behavioral autonomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Automatism*
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology
  • Food Deprivation / physiology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*