Jordan, W.P., Todd, T. P., Bucci, D. J. & Leaton, R. N. (2015). Habituation, latent inhibition, and extinction. Learning & Behavior. Online publication. doi:10.3758/s13420-015-0168-z
In two conditioned suppression experiments with a latent inhibition (LI) design, we measured the habituation of rats in preexposure, their LI during conditioning, and then extinction over days. In the first experiment, lick suppression, the preexposed group (PE) showed a significant initial unconditioned response (UR) to the target stimulus and significant long-term habituation (LTH) of that response over days. The significant difference between the PE and nonpreexposed (NPE) groups on the first conditioning trial was due solely to the difference in their URs to the conditioned stimulus (CS)—a habituated response (PE) and an unhabituated response (NPE). In the second experiment, bar-press suppression, little UR to the target stimulus was apparent during preexposure, and no detectable LTH. Thus, there was no difference between the PE and NPE groups on the first conditioning trial. Whether the UR to the CS confounds the interpretation of LI (Exp. 1) or not (Exp. 2) can only be known if the UR is measured. In both experiments, LI was observed in acquisition. Also in both experiments, rats that were preexposed and then conditioned to asymptote were significantly more resistant to extinction than were the rats not preexposed. This result contrasts with the consistently reported finding that preexposure either produces less resistance to extinction or has no effect on extinction. The effect of stimulus preexposure survived conditioning to asymptote and was reflected directly in extinction. These two experiments provide a cautionary procedural note for LI experiments and have shown an unexpected extinction effect that may provide new insights into the interpretation of LI.