The Dynamics of Conditioning and Extinction

Peter R. Killeen, Federico Sanabria, Igor Dolgov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Pigeons responded to intermittently reinforced classical conditioning trials with erratic bouts of responding to the conditioned stimulus. Responding depended on whether the prior trial contained a peck, food, or both. A linear persistence-learning model moved pigeons into and out of a response state, and a Weibull distribution for number of within-trial responses governed in-state pecking. Variations of trial and intertrial durations caused correlated changes in rate and probability of responding and in model parameters. A novel prediction-in the protracted absence of food, response rates can plateau above zero-was validated. The model predicted smooth acquisition functions when instantiated with the probability of food but a more accurate jagged learning curve when instantiated with trial-to-trial records of reinforcement. The Skinnerian parameter was dominant only when food could be accelerated or delayed by pecking. These experiments provide a framework for trial-by-trial accounts of conditioning and extinction that increases the information available from the data, permitting such accounts to comment more definitively on complex contemporary models of momentum and conditioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-472
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • autoshaping
  • behavioral momentum
  • classical conditioning
  • dynamic analyses
  • instrumental conditioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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