Conditioned inhibition and reinforcement rate

J Exp Psychol Anim Learn Cogn. 2014 Jul;40(3):335-54. doi: 10.1037/xan0000023. Epub 2014 Apr 7.


We investigated conditioned inhibition in a magazine approach paradigm. Rats were trained on a feature negative discrimination between an auditory conditioned stimulus (CS) reinforced at one rate versus a compound of that CS and a visual stimulus (L) reinforced at a lower rate. This training established L as a conditioned inhibitor. We then tested the inhibitory strength of L by presenting it in compound with other auditory CSs. L reduced responding when tested with a CS that had been reinforced at a high rate, but had less or even no inhibitory effect when tested with a CS that had been reinforced at a low rate. The inhibitory strength of L was greater if it signaled a decrease in reinforcement from an already low rate than if it signaled an equivalent decrease in reinforcement from a high rate. We conclude that the strength of inhibition is not a linear function of the change in reinforcement that it signals. We discuss the implications of this finding for models of learning (e.g., Rescorla & Wagner, 1972) that identify inhibition with a difference (subtraction) rule.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reaction Time
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Time Factors