The acquisition of conditioned responding

26 September 2011

This report analyzes the acquisition of conditioned responses in rats trained in a magazine approach paradigm. Following the suggestion by Gallistel, Fairhurst and Balsam (2004), Weibull functions were fitted to the trial-by-trial response rates of individual rats. These showed that the emergence of responding was often delayed, after which the response rate would increase relatively gradually across trials. The fit of the Weibull function to the behavioral data of each rat was equaled by that of a cumulative exponential function incorporating a response threshold. Thus the growth in conditioning strength on each trial can be modeled by the derivative of the exponential – a difference term of the form used in many models of associative learning (e.g., Rescorla & Wagner, 1972). Further analyses, comparing the acquisition of responding to a continuously reinforced stimulus (CRf) and a partially reinforced stimulus (PRf), provided further evidence in support of the difference term. In conclusion, the results are consistent with conventional models that describe learning as the growth of associative strength, incremented on each trial by an error-correction process.