US specificity of occasion setting: Hierarchical or configural learning?

Charlotte Bonardi*, Craig Bartle, Dómhnall Jennings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Four experiments in rats examined whether occasion setters and target CSs play qualitatively different roles in occasion-setting discriminations. Two visual occasion setters, A and B, signalled reinforcement of two auditory target CSs, x and y, with sucrose and oil (A.... x→ suc, B.... y→ oil, A-, B-, x-, y-); in addition two transfer CSs w and z were paired with sucrose and oil (w→ suc, z→ oil). When w and z were substituted for x and y (A.... w, B.... w, A.... z, B.... z) more responding was observed when both stimuli had been paired with the same outcome (Experiments 1 and 3a). No effect was observed when two visual "pseudo-occasion setters", C and D (paired with sucrose and oil in a trace relation to the US:. C.... → suc, D.... → oil), were substituted for the occasion setters A and B (C.... x, D.... x, C.... y, D.... y; Experiments 2, 3b and 4). These results could not be explained in terms of Pavlovian summation: responding to combinations of Pavlovian CSs paired with same or different outcomes was either the same, or lower when both stimuli had been paired with the same outcome (Experiment 4). Implications of these results for theories of occasion setting and configural learning are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-322
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Configural learning
  • Hierarchical
  • Occasion setting
  • Rat
  • Summation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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