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Durham University



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Publication details

Austen, J. M. & Sanderson, D. J. (2020). Cue duration determines response rate but not rate of acquisition of Pavlovian conditioning in mice. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 73(11): 2026-2035.

Author(s) from Durham


The duration of a conditioned stimulus (CS) is a key determinant of Pavlovian conditioning. Rate estimation theory (RET) proposes that reinforcement rate is calculated over cumulative exposure to a cue and the reinforcement rate of a cue, relative to the background reinforcement rate, determines the speed of acquisition of conditioned responding. Consequently, RET predicts that shorter-duration cues require fewer trials to acquisition than longer-duration cues due to the difference in reinforcement rates. We tested this prediction by reanalysing the results of a previously published experiment. Mice received appetitive Pavlovian conditioning of magazine approach behaviour with a 10-s CS and a 40-s CS. Cue duration did not affect the rate at which responding emerged or the rate at which it peaked. The 10-s CS did elicit higher levels of responding than the 40-s CS. These results are not consistent with rate estimation theory. Instead, they are consistent with an associative analysis that assumes that asymptotic levels of responding reflect the balance between increments and decrements in associative strength across cumulative exposure to a cue.