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J Gen Psychol. 2002 Oct;129(4):364-400.

Common processes may contribute to extinction and habituation.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Washington State University, Pullman 99164-4820, USA.


Psychologists routinely attribute the characteristics of conditioned behavior to complicated cognitive processes. For example, many of the characteristics of behavior undergoing extinction have been attributed to retrieval from memory. The authors argue that these characteristics may result from the simpler process of habituation. In particular, conditioned responding may decrease during extinction partially because habituation occurs to the stimuli that control responding when those stimuli are presented repeatedly or for a prolonged time (e.g., the experimental context, the conditioned stimulus in classical conditioning). This idea is parsimonious, has face validity, and evokes only processes that are well established by other evidence. In addition, behavior undergoing extinction shows 12 of the fundamental properties of behavior undergoing habituation. However, this model probably cannot provide a complete theory of extinction. It provides no obvious explanation for some of the other characteristics of extinguished behavior.

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