Appetitive Pavlovian-instrumental Transfer: A review

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 Dec:71:829-848. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.09.020. Epub 2016 Sep 28.


Reward-related cues are an important part of our daily life as they often influence and guide our actions. This paper reviews one of the experimental paradigms used to study the effects of cues, the Pavlovian to Instrumental Transfer paradigm. In this paradigm, cues associated with rewards through Pavlovian conditioning alter motivation and choice of instrumental actions. The first transfer experiments date back to the 1940s, but only in the last decade has it been fully recognised that there are two types of transfer, specific and general. This paper presents a systematic review of both the neural substrates and the behavioral factors affecting both types of transfer. It also examines the recent application of the paradigm to study the effect of cues on human participants, both in normal and pathological conditions, and the interactions of transfer with drugs of abuse. Finally, the paper analyses the theoretical aspects of transfer to build an overall picture of the phenomenon, from early theories to recent hierarchical accounts.

Keywords: Instrumental conditioning; PIT; Pavlovian conditioning; Review; Transfer.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Reward
  • Transfer, Psychology*