Spontaneous Recovery and Extinction

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Spontaneous Recovery and Extinction Spontaneous recovery from extinction is one of the most basic phenomena of Pavlovian conditioning. Although it can be studied by using a variety of designs, some procedures are better than others for identifying the involvement of underlying learning processes. A wide range of different learning mechanisms has been suggested as being engaged by extinction, most of which have implications for the nature of spontaneous recovery. However, despite the centrality of the notion of spontaneous recovery to the understanding of extinction, the empirical literature on its determinants is relatively sparse and quite mixed. Its very ubiquity suggests that spontaneous recovery has multiple…show more content…
(C) A better spontaneous recovery design in which S1 and S2 are both trained and extinction, but then tested for recovery after different time periods. (D) An alternative design in which S1 and S2 are tested in a common test session, despite different times between extinction and test. In this context, the phenomenon of spontaneous recovery has a complex role. That phenomenon suggests that the results that we obtain in a t2 assessment may be quite different depending on the length of time that intervenes between the t1 extinction experience and the t2 test. It has been known since Pavlov's (1927) early experiments that the loss of behavior that results from presenting the stimulus alone at t1 is not entirely permanent. Rather, with the passage of time following nonreinforcement, there is some “spontaneous recovery” of the initially learned behavior. Introducing greater time delays between t1 extinction treatment and t2 test provides the opportunity for greater spontaneous recovery. At minimum, the phenomenon of spontaneous recovery provides some information about what process fails to account for the loss of behavior when an extinction procedure is conducted. It suggests that the loss does not simply involve the removal of what was learned in acquisition. As Pavlov noted, if an extinction procedure had erased the acquisition learning, then there would be no basis for behavior to return with time. It suggests that instead something happens during
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