Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)




Timothy A. Shahan


Attentional biases occur with various psychological disorders, including drug
addiction and anxiety. Conditioned reinforcement likely plays a role in maintaining
attentional biases to stimuli associated with reinforcement for unwanted behavior. The
observing-response procedure is considered a model of attending as reflected by
responding maintained by conditioned reinforcement. Effects of primary reinforcement on the persistence of observing have been studied in the framework of behavioral momentum theory. Studies have shown observing-responses to be more resistant to
change in contexts arranging relatively higher rates of primary reinforcement. Recently, behavioral momentum theory has been extended to describe the effects of primary reinforcement context in relapse phenomena. The present thesis aimed to extend research on the resistance to change of observing to animal models of relapse. Pigeons responded on a two-component multiple schedule of observing-response procedures. In a rich component, observing responses produced stimuli correlated with a high rate of variableinterval (VI) food reinforcement (Rich S+). In a lean component, observing responses produced stimuli correlated with a low rate of VI food reinforcement (Lean S+). Following stable performance, responding was extinguished by removing food and S+ presentations. After extinction, relapse was assessed by reinstatement tests consisting of response-independent presentations of food or S+. Replicating earlier results, observingand food-key responding was more resistant to extinction in the Rich component. Food reinstatement had no systematic effect on extinguished food- and observing-key responding. However, S+ reinstatement resulted in relapse of extinguished observingand food-key responding. Relapse during S+ reinstatement was greater in the Rich component than the Lean component. Reinstatement of responding by S+ presentations resulted in a greater overall increase in responding on the food-key relative to the observing-key. This result suggests that an important functional relationship between the presence of S+ stimuli and increased rates of primary reinforcement for food key responding remained intact during extinction. The results show that observing is susceptible to relapse, and the magnitude of relapse depends on baseline primary reinforcement rate in a context.


This work made publicly available electronically on April 6, 2011.

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