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Learn Mem. 2004 Sep-Oct;11(5):485-94.

Context and behavioral processes in extinction.

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Department of Psychology, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA.


This article provides a selective review and integration of the behavioral literature on Pavlovian extinction. The first part reviews evidence that extinction does not destroy the original learning, but instead generates new learning that is especially context-dependent. The second part examines insights provided by research on several related behavioral phenomena (the interference paradigms, conditioned inhibition, and inhibition despite reinforcement). The final part examines four potential causes of extinction: the discrimination of a new reinforcement rate, generalization decrement, response inhibition, and violation of a reinforcer expectation. The data are consistent with behavioral models that emphasize the role of generalization decrement and expectation violation, but would be more so if those models were expanded to better accommodate the finding that extinction involves a context-modulated form of inhibitory learning.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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