The orienting response as an index of stimulus associability in rats

J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 1988 Jul;14(3):292-301.


The strength of the orienting response (OR) to a light and its associability was studied in three experiments. In Experiment 1, three groups of rats received serial conditioning in which the light served as the first element of a serial compound. For Group Diff the light was followed by a conditioned stimulus (CS) of 10-s duration on some trials and by a different CS of 30-s duration on others. For the other groups, the light was also followed by different stimuli, but these had equivalent durations. This procedure resulted in a stronger OR toward the light in Group Diff than in either of the other groups. In Experiments 2 and 3 the OR was stronger to a light that was followed by a 10-s CS on some trials and by a 30-s CS on others than to one that was followed by different CSs that were both randomly either 10 s or 30 s. Following this training, both excitatory and inhibitory conditioning with the light was faster in those groups for which the light elicited a strong rather than a weak OR. These results are most readily explained by the proposal that the strength of the OR toward a CS is determined by the accuracy with which the value of its immediate consequences can be predicted and that this OR can be used as an index of the associability of the CS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal*
  • Association Learning*
  • Attention
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Cues
  • Exploratory Behavior*
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Orientation*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Serial Learning