Removing but not adding elements of a context affects generalization of instrumental responses
Three experiments with rats investigated whether adding or removing elements of a context affects generalization of instrumental behavior. Each of the experiments used a free operant procedure. In Experiments 1 and 2, rats were trained to press a lever for food in a distinctive context. Then, transfer of lever pressing was tested in a context created either by adding an element to the context of initial acquisition or by removing one of the acquisition context’s elements. In Experiment 3, a similar generalization test was conducted after rats received acquisition and extinction within the same context. For Experiments 1 and 2, we observed that removing elements from the acquisition context disrupted acquisition performance, whereas the addition of elements to the context did not. Experiment 3 revealed that removing elements from but not adding elements to the original context improved extinction performance. Our results are consistent with an elemental view of context representation.
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13420-017-0307-9