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J Exp Anal Behav. 1981 Jul;36(1):75-91.

Autoshaping in the rat: Effects of omission on the form of the response.


Two experiments were conducted to investigate the effect of an omission contingency on behavior related to and characterizing autoshaped lever contacts in the rat. In Experiment I an omission contingency imposed on autoshaped lever contacts forceful enough to produce a press (.078N) resulted in a significant decrease in lever presses, but had no effect on frequency of lever touches (contacts of insufficient force to produce a press) or rate of food tray entry during lever presentation. In contrast, rats which received a similar number of lever-food pairings, but whose behavior had no programmed consequences (yoked control subjects), showed an increase in lever press rate, a significant decrease in rate of food tray entry, and no change in rate of lever-touches. In Experiment II, the effect of a similar omission contingency on the topography of lever contact responses was investigated. Prior to omission training subjects contacted the lever primarily by pawing it. Following omission training this behavior was suppressed, with a subsequent increase in lever contacts characterized as nosing. Yoked control subjects showed no significant changes in lever contact topography. The results indicate that (1) an omission contingency does not simply eliminate wholesale those topographies which incur the contingency but produces subtle adaptive changes in lever contact topography; and (2) the nature of the autoshaped response in the rat does not appear to be rigid enough to depend solely upon the nature of the unconditioned stimulus or the conditioned stimulus, but can also be determined by the relationships existing between the animal's behavior and these stimuli.

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