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Acquisition of superexcitatory properties by an irrelevant background stimulus

Williams, Douglas A.; Mehta, Rick; Poworoznyk, Tracy M.; Orihel, Jane S.; George, David N.; Pearce, John M.


Douglas A. Williams

Rick Mehta

Tracy M. Poworoznyk

Jane S. Orihel

John M. Pearce


Six appetitive conditioning experiments with rats demonstrated that an irrelevant X accompanying a negative patterning discrimination (XA+, XB+, XAB-) acquires extraordinarily high levels of conditioned excitation. Responding to X was similar to that evoked by 2 excitors in combination (Experiment 1) and was greater than responding to a separately reinforced Y (Experiments 2-5). Superexcitatory properties were not acquired by X in the nonpatterning discriminations of Experiments 2-4. Experiment 5 found that A and B, if anything, were weakly excitatory. Making them more strongly excitatory after conditioning did not Interfere with retention of the original discrimination (Experiment 6). Results support a counterintuitive prediction of associative theories that, under carefully arranged conditions, irrelevant stimuli may acquire superexcitatory properties.


Williams, D. A., Mehta, R., Poworoznyk, T. M., Orihel, J. S., George, D. N., & Pearce, J. M. (2002). Acquisition of superexcitatory properties by an irrelevant background stimulus. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 28(3), 284-297.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2002-07
Print ISSN 0097-7403
Electronic ISSN 0097-7403
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 3
Pages 284-297
Keywords Causality; Judgments; Discrimination
Public URL
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