Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Department of Psychological Science

Thesis Type

Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors

First Advisor

Donna Toufexis


Stress, Habit, Goal-directed behavior, Instrumental behavior, Female rats


The appropriate expression of deliberative and automatic behavioral processes is critical for maintaining adaptive responding in dynamic environments. In instrumental models of voluntary behavior, competing influences from goal-directed and habitual systems govern the performance of action. Neuroscientific research has suggested that these systems are instantiated within distinct cortico-striatal circuits, whose relative influence depends on variables such as the extent of training, modulation of attention, and stress. Stress has been demonstrated to deteriorate the use of deliberative memory strategies, but its distributed and non-linear effects upon the processes of action control are still unclear and a topic of debate in the field. In the present experiment, we examined whether exposure to acute stress before acquisition training for an instrumental response influenced the expression of goal-directed and habitual processes. The results indicated that exposure to acute restraint stress prior to instrumental conditioning was sufficient to support habitual responding, while the Non-Stressed group remained goal-directed. These data suggest that acute stress may promote habitual control over behavior through an effect on the learning and memory processes engaged during its acquisition. Further research is needed to determine the extent to which this effect can be brought about by changes in the learning and memory processes for the response, or by influences of stress upon memory retrieval mechanisms.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Available for download on Sunday, May 05, 2024