Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mark Bouton


It is commonly accepted that instrumental responses that have been extinguished can return. For example, in a phenomenon known as the renewal effect, extinguished behaviors return upon removal from the extinction context. Another well-accepted notion is that instrumental behaviors can be thought of as goal-directed actions, which form over the course of moderate amounts of practice or training, and habits, which form after extended practice. Despite years of research on both topics, what happens to actions and habits following extinction is poorly understood. The present experiments examined the renewal of actions and habits following retroactive interference paradigms such as extinction and additional training. Experiment 1 examined renewal of an action following its extinction in a separate context, and demonstrated that the extinguished behavior renewed as an action upon return to the acquisition context. Experiment 2 asked the same question about habits, and found that the behavior renewed as a habit after extinction upon return to the acquisition context. Experiment 3 examined renewal of goal-directed responding in one context following extensive training and conversion into habit in another context. It demonstrated that a single response could manifest as a habit in one context, and renew as an action in the original training context. Experiment 4 asked if this effect depends on returning to the acquisition context, or simply removal from the habit training context. The results suggest that mere removal from the habit training context is sufficient to renew the goal-directed properties of a behavior. Together, the results suggest that actions and habits can be inhibited in a context-specific manner by extinction, and that instrumental behaviors can have both action and habit properties that can each renew under the proper circumstances. The results also expand on the notion that habits are especially context specific, while actions can transfer across contexts.



Number of Pages

75 p.

Included in

Psychology Commons