Effect of reinforcer devaluation on discriminative control of instrumental behavior

J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 1990 Jan;16(1):40-7.


Two experiments examined the effect of reinforcer devaluation on the ability of a discriminative stimulus (Sd) to control instrumental behavior in Sprague-Dawley rats. In Experiment 1 reinforcer devaluation reduced, but did not eliminate, the ability of the Sd to control performance of the original response and to transfer its control to a new response trained with the same reinforcer. The effect of devaluation was more complete in Experiment 2, in which the reinforcer was delivered directly into the oral cavity. However, retraining the response with a different reinforcer partially restored the ability of the Sd to control performance of that response. These results suggest that an Sd may not augment its trained responses when the reinforcer has been completely devalued but may promote responses with which it shares a reinforcer, as long as those responses are associated with some reinforcer that retains its value. The implications of these results for the way that discriminative stimuli control instrumental behavior are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior
  • Association Learning
  • Conditioning, Operant*
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Reinforcement Schedule*
  • Transfer, Psychology