Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Pavlov (1927) first reported that following appetitive conditioning of multiple stimuli, extinction of one CS attenuated responding to others which had not undergone direct extinction. Four experiments with rat subjects investigated potential mechanisms of this secondary extinction effect. Experiment 1 assessed whether secondary extinction would be more likely to occur with target CSs that have themselves undergone some prior extinction. Two CSs were initially paired with shock. One CS was subsequently extinguished before the second CS was tested. The target CS was partially extinguished for half the rats and not extinguished CS for the other half. A robust secondary extinction effect was obtained with the non-extinguished target CS. Experiment 2 investigated whether secondary extinction occurs if the target CS is tested outside the context where the first CS is extinguished. Despite the context switch secondary extinction was observed. Extinction of one CS was also found to thwart renewal of suppression to a second CS when it was tested in a neutral context. Experiment 3 examined whether secondary extinction can be attributed to mediated generalization caused by association of the CSs with a common US during conditioning. Rats received conditioning with three CSs and then extinction with one of them. Secondary extinction was observed with a shock-associated CS when the extinguished CS had been associated with either food pellets or shock, suggesting that secondary extinction is not US-specific and is thus not explained by this mediated generalization mechanism. Experiment 4 examined whether intermixing trials with the two stimuli during conditioning is necessary for secondary extinction to occur. Rats were either conditioned with intermixed trials as in Experiments 1-3, or with blocked trials of each CS presented in conditioning sessions separated by a day. Secondary extinction was observed only in the former condition. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that CSs must be associated with a common temporal context for secondary extinction to occur.