Mechanisms underlying retarded emergence of conditioned responding following inhibitory training: evidence for the comparator hypothesis.J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 1987 Jul; 13(3):310-22.JE
The comparator hypothesis posits that conditioned responding is determined by a comparison at the time of testing between the associative strengths of the conditioned stimulus (CS) and stimuli proximal to the CS at the time of conditioning. The hypothesis treats all associations as being excitatory and treats conditioned inhibition as the behavioral consequence of a CS that is less excitatory than its comparator stimuli. Conditioned lick suppression by rats was used to differentiate four possible sources of retarded responding to an inhibitory CS. These include habituation to the unconditioned stimulus (US), latent inhibition to the CS, blocking of the CS-US association by the conditioning context, and enhanced excitatory associations to the comparator stimuli. Prior research has demonstrated the first three phenomena. Therefore, we employed parameters expected to highlight the fourth one--the comparator process. In Experiment 1, our negative contingency training was shown to produce a conditioned inhibitor that passed inhibitory summation and retardation tests. In Experiment 2 we found transfer of retardation from an inhibitory CS to a novel stimulus when the location where retardation-test training occurred was excitatory, which is indicative of contextual blocking and/or comparator effects. In Experiment 3, extinction of the conditioning context was found to attenuate retardation regardless of whether extinction occurred before or after the CS-US pairings of the retardation test. This indicates that much of the present retardation was due to the comparator process rather than to contextual blocking. Experiment 4 demonstrated that habituation to the US did not contribute to retardation in the present case. Collectively, these studies suggest that retardation following inhibitory training can be explained without recourse to any of the traditional mechanisms of conditioned inhibition.